England couldn’t quite execute their usual aggressive start losing Jason Roy (0) early after being inserted by Sri Lanka and Jonny Bairstow struggled to 26 off 40 before he was castled by Thisara Perera.
Joe Root (71) was able to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the tourists though and shared a 70 run stand with Bairstow before being joined by skipper Eoin Morgan for a 72 run third wicket stand.
Dhananjaya de Silva would eventually induce a leading edge to send Root packing but Morgan (92) would add another fifty with Ben Stokes (15) an 28 with Jos Buttler before the skipper’s wicket prompted an England collapse.
Lasith Malinga (5/44) delivered his first ODI five-fer in four years to peg England back at the death restricting them to just 278 for 9.
Adil Rashid (19*) and Olly Stone (9*) did well as the last pair to ensure England used up their fifty overs.
England’s opening bowlers delivered what proved to be knockout blows to the Sri Lanka cause.
Chris Woakes (3/26) took on the strike bowler role while Stone (1/23) made a miserly start to his international bowling career, he went for just seven runs from his first four overs as the Sri Lanka top order gave way.
Sri Lanka slipped to 74 for 5 but would rally to 140 for 5 with De Silva (36*) and Thisara (44*) showing plenty of fight to get the hosts back into the game before the rain ended their bid for a comeback.
Morgan’s runs were the difference between the two sides and he was named the man of the match.
The pair repelled the best Australia could throw at them for 11 and a half overs.
All three results are possible, with England ending day four 248 for eight – a lead of 170 runs on a wearing pitch.
Alzarri Joseph and Shannon Gabriel shared four wickets in the final hour to peg back England.
England are 170 ahead with two tail-end wickets in hand after a frantic final hour on day four.
The hosts were 168 for three at tea, 54 in front.
England reduced the deficit to 35 before lunch.
Broad was dropped from the series opener against the West Indies as Anderson, Mark Wood and Jofra Archer were preferred.
Stand-in captain Ben Stokes kept England in the game with three late wickets on day three.
The captain took four wickets before England closed the day on 15 without loss.
Anderson claimed three for 62 in a typically reliable stint.