Alastair Cook gave an immediate answer to those who doubted his ability to lead the England one-day international team as they triumphed over Sri Lanka by 16 runs yesterday at Old Trafford and won a 3-2 series victory.
"To play well under the pressure of a deciding match was very pleasing," Cook said. "We don't want it to be close but we handled the pressure excellently. There is stuff to improve on but this is a step in the right direction."
The bowler Jade Dernbach held his nerve as the home side beat the World Cup finalists.
Sri Lanka, chasing 269 for victory, finished on 252 all out with 10 balls of their innings left.
Dernbach dismissed the dangerous Angelo Mathews for a near run-a-ball 62 with a clever slower ball the all-rounder sliced to Tim Bresnan at backward point.
Dernbach finished the match by clean bowling Lasith Malinga for a return of two for 49.
The tourists were in trouble at 131 for five, needing 138 more runs to win, when Mathews and Jeevan Mendis came together with 20 overs left.
Their sixth-wicket partnership of 102 troubled England until Mendis holed out to the left-arm spin of Samit Patel.
New batsman Nuwan Kulasekara then hit James Anderson, bowling on his Lancashire home ground, to Eoin Morgan at deep midwicket before Suraj Randiv was run out in a dreadful mix-up.
Malinga struck Anderson for a huge six to get the target down to 17 off 12 balls.
Dernbach's double strike gave Cook a win in his first series in permanent charge of the one-day side and a measure of revenge after a 10-wicket World Cup quarter-final defeat by the islanders.
Sri Lanka's reply got off to a dreadful start as they slumped to 12 for two inside four overs, fast-medium bowler Bresnan removing both openers on his way to three for 49 in nine overs.
The debutant batsman Dimuth Karunaratne edged Bresnan to Jonathan Trott at first slip for four and the captain Tillakaratne Dilshan fell for the same score when he pulled the Yorkshireman straight to Dernbach at long leg.
The batting ace Mahela Jayawardene managed just nine before he mistimed a drive off Anderson to Cook at mid-off to the delight of a capacity 19,000 crowd.
Dinesh Chandimal counter-attacked by driving Bresnan for six and repeating the dose against off-spinner Graeme Swann.
But Chandimal, who made a superb unbeaten hundred in Sri Lanka's six-wicket win at Lord's last weekend, was out for 54 when he raced down the pitch to Swann only to be beaten in flight before being stumped by Craig Kieswetter.
Chandimal's exit ended a partnership of 94 with the experienced left-hander Kumar Sangakkara that had taken Sri Lanka to 123 for four in the 27th over.
Sangakkara followed soon afterwards, chopping on to Bresnan for 48.
That England made 268 for nine was largely down to a fourth-wicket stand of 118 between man-of-the-match Trott (72) and Morgan (57).
They seemed set for a huge total when man-of-the-series Cook put on 85 in quick time with Kieswetter after winning the toss to follow the pair's unbroken stand of 171 in a crushing 10-wicket win at Trent Bridge on Wednesday.
Cook, who had made 119 and 95 not out in his previous two innings, was deceived on 31 by a sharply turning ball from Randiv and stumped by Sangakkara.
The opener was the first of a five wickets for off-spinner Randiv, who finished with a career-best five for 42, surpassing his previous best return of three for 23 against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo last year.
Trott, though, completed his patient fifty before an unlucky dismissal saw a pull off Randiv get caught up in his body and trickle onto the stumps before he could kick the ball away.
Trott was modest of his own performance.
"It was a lot easier coming in after Cook and Kieswetter had done such a good job," he said. "We wanted to have a quick look then go as quickly as possible. There is a lot of belief in our changing room and we're very pleased to have beat Sri Lanka in conditions today that are similar to Colombo."