They could not hold on to catches, but the batting of openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga caught fire quickly as Sri Lanka had little trouble in brushing aside England and setting up a semifinal face-off against New Zealand.
Dilshan and Tharanga's second 200-plus association of the tournament ensured Sri Lanka made light of the target of 230, romping home by 10 wickets with 10.3 overs to spare.
This meant all three Asian sub-continental sides who made it to the last eight have assured themselves of a berth in the last four.
As Dilshan and Tharanga took guard after England had struggled to put on 229 for six at the R Premadasa stadium, South Africa's collapse against New Zealand the previous night while chasing a moderate target would certainly have played on their minds.
But the duo was quickly off the blocks as Tharanga targeted Graeme Swann, England's best bowler of the tournament by a distance.
Once Andrew Strauss' tactics of opening the attack with an off-spinner to ask a few questions of the left-handed batsman had been nullified, it was just a matter of keeping their head on the shoulders and not throwing their wickets away.
And both the openers did this to perfection. Not only did they milk the bowling they also matched each other shot for shot. If Dilshan charged down the wicket to hit James Tredwell for a boundary through covers, Tharanga did the same later in the over.
Dilshan completed his 10th ODI century with a square cut to the fence off Swann, and minutes later Tharanga, who opted to bat with a runner for the last half an hour or so, raised his hands in the air after hitting a spanking cover drive off Chris Tremlett to bring up his 11th ODI ton as well as Sri Lanka's victory.
Strauss and Co could do nothing but applaud the batting display as their 10th Cup campaign ended a week earlier than they would have hoped for.
However, the campaign would have been all but over at the halfway stage had Sri Lanka not dished out a pathetic performance in the field, especially when it came to catching.
Had they not dropped Eoin Morgan thrice, all regulation catches, Sri Lanka would have been chasing a target less than 200 in the last of the quarterfinals.Lifelines for Morgan
Morgan made full use of the let-offs to put on 91 runs with Jonathan Trott for the fourth wicket and set a foundation for a late flourish.
The southpaw was first dropped on 16 by Thilan Samaraweera at deep point off Ajantha Mendis.
And then, he got two reprieves in three deliveries, from Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath respectively, off Muttiah Muralitharan when he was on 33 and 34.
Trott treads on
Trott continued his sensational run with the bat to anchor England's essay to perfection. But the conventional batsman failed to shift into top gear in the death overs as England could add just 56 runs off the last 10 overs, which included the five batting Powerplay overs.
They might have had butterfingers but Sri Lanka displayed they are a closely-knit unit. Over to Tuesday when they face Vettori's men in the semifinal.