England suffered a crushing eight-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka after Chamari Athapaththu smashed 55 to help the tourists chase down 105 for victory at Chelmsford to level the T20 series at 1-1.
Heather Knight’s team were brought back down to earth after a golden summer with an all-round poor display at the County Ground where only Charlie Dean’s 34 down the order prevented an even heavier loss.
England had been reduced to 66 for eight but Dean’s highest international Twenty20 score saw the hosts make it up to 104.
It was still not enough to deny Sri Lanka a maiden T20 win over England at the 10th time of asking with Athapaththu leading from the front with a 26-ball half-century to set up a winner-takes-all clash at Derby on Wednesday.
England had swatted the Sri Lankan bowlers to all parts of Hove on Thursday in a total of 186 for four off 17 overs, but this display could have not been more chalk and cheese.
Openers Danni Wyatt and Maia Bouchier departed during the powerplay and number three Alice Capsey holed out in between after growing frustrated at a succession of dot balls.
Captain Knight and Amy Jones joined forces at this point and put on 20 for the fourth wicket, but Inoka Ranaweera quickly had the duo in a spin.
Jones initially survived a big lbw appeal but Sri Lanka reviewed and ball-tracker showed Ranaweera’s delivery would have crashed into leg stump.
Ranaweera then had Knight for 13 in her next over, taking a smart caught-and-bowled chance when the England skipper got a leading edge.
The hosts were 51 for six at the halfway mark, but the recalled Inoshi Fernando forced another loose shot when Danielle Gibson reverse swept to Ranaweera, who took an excellent catch in the short third region.
Gibson was England’s last recognised batter and their lowest T20 score of 87 versus Australia in 2015 suddenly felt a long way off, but number eight Dean played a crucial hand.
Dean rotated the strike well with Issy Wong in a vital 33-run partnership for the ninth wicket.
England’s bowling all-rounder Dean struck three boundaries from Ranaweera’s third over, sweeping the spinner twice before punching away for another four to move past her own previous highest total in T20 internationals.
Wong played her part with a single taking the hosts beyond 87, but she was one of Udeshika Prabodhani’s two scalps at the death to walk off for 14.
Prabodhani bowled Dean with a yorker from the final ball of the 19th over to dismiss England for 104 with 12 balls of their innings left.
It provided Sri Lanka with a golden opportunity to claim a first T20 victory over the hosts and captain Athapaththu set out her stall from the off.
Athapaththu lost opener Anushka Sanjeewani in the second over when the wicketkeeper spliced up in the air from Gibson with Dean running in to take the catch, but it was not the start of an England comeback.
Sri Lanka skipper Athapaththu smashed 21 off the next over with Kate Cross hit all around the ground, including a huge pull for six.
Knight turned to Wong, but the seamer struggled and produced an eventful 10-ball over with an array of no-balls, which gave Harshitha Samarawickrama two lives after Cross claimed a superb one-handed grab from a free hit.
Athapaththu remained ultra-focused down the other end and Dean was her next target, walloped over her head for another maximum before back-to-back fours helped Sri Lanka end the powerplay on 67 for one.
A superb fifty from 26 balls was achieved by Athapaththu when she drilled Capsey for four but the England teenager did bring her exceptional innings to an end when the Sri Lanka captain mishit a floated delivery to Cross at long-off.
While Capsey and Sarah Glenn helped reduce the run rate, Sri Lanka would not be denied and Samarawickrama pulled Cross for six to secure victory for the tourists’ with 40 balls to spare.