LONDON - Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka produced a fine 128-run stand for the second wicket, Sri Lanka's highest partnership of the series to date, before the senior pairing of Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews assumed responsibility for the closing stages, to lay the foundations of a challenging 42-over total of 305 for 5 in a dank and rain-affected fourth ODI against England at the Kia Oval.

Mendis and Gunathilaka made light of the early run-out of Kusal Perera to put their side into their most dominant position of the series so far, but despite the impressive runs on the board, their position could have been even stronger, but for a rain-break of nearly two-and-a-half hours that scuppered their side's momentum and allowed England a vital opportunity to regroup. After the DL calculations, England were left with a target of 308.

Mendis, who has been Sri Lanka's most promising young batsman of a tough campaign, produced his fourth and highest half-century of the tour and his most fluent yet, and had cruised along to 75 not out from 59 balls, with 13 impeccably judged fours, to power Sri Lanka along to 127 for 1 in 18.1 overs before the umpires decided that the persistent drizzle had become too intense to ignore.

After the resumption, however, the onus on picking up their momentum where they had left off proved problematic, with England's spin pairing of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali - restored to the side in place of Chris Jordan - settling into a fine constraining rhythm to account for both not-out men.

First to fall was Mendis, who had faced just five deliveries on the resumption when his attempt to take on Rashid's wiles resulted in an open-faced miscue to a diving Liam Plunkett in the covers. He departed for 77 from 64 balls, a very fine knock that would surely have been better rewarded in more fortunate circumstances.

At the other end, Gunathilaka - who had been stranded on 48 from 49 balls at the rain break - eased along to his first half-century of the series as Moeen completed his interrupted over, but he too fell victim to Rashid's cool head under fire. Displaying the skills he picked up at the Big Bash and honed during England's World T20 campaign, he used his googly to fine effect in the damp weather, and appeared to sucker his prey with the one that went the other way, as Gunathilaka made room for a lofted drive over the covers, but instead chipped a cramped drive to Moeen at wide mid-off.

The rain delay had unquestionably come at a opportune moment for England. Despite Eoin Morgan's delight at winning the toss - he correctly assumed that Duckworth-Lewis calculations would come into play, which tend to favour the chasing side - England's seamers initially struggled for impact. David Willey, normally a prolific swinger of the ball in all conditions, found no lateral movement on what was a typically true Oval surface, despite the fact that it had been under the covers for 24 hours.

England were a more focused unit in the second half of their bowling effort, although they struggled once again to separate Sri Lanka's old guard of Mathews and, in particular, Chandimal, who followed his 62 from 77 balls at Bristol with a sparkier innings of 63 from 51.

After attracting some criticism for his sedate progress at Bristol, Chandimal announced his intentions from the eighth ball of this innings, a long-levered thump over cow corner for six as Moeen strayed fractionally in line. He added two more sixes off the extra pace of Plunkett - the first of which was a fearsome blow into the second tier of the pavilion - as both teams treated a frenzied resumption like a replay of their World T20 clash in Delhi three months ago.

Chandimal was eventually bowled round his legs by Willey, now finding his swing with the older ball, to bring to an end an 87-run stand for the fourth wicket in 13.2 overs. And Willey was once again on the mark to stem the aggression of Seekkuga Prasanna, who was comprehensively yorked by a hooping outswinger for 9.

Dasun Shanaka got off the mark with a first-ball cut through backward point to finish with 19 from 10, with Mathews, so central to Sri Lanka's near-miss in that Delhi contest, the silent partner for much of his innings of 67 not out from 54 balls, initially limiting his extravagance to one pre-meditated wallop for six over midwicket from Moeen.

However, Mathews brought up his fifty from 47 balls with an arrow-straight drive off a near-perfect Plunkett yorker, then celebrated with two more fours in consecutive balls - a flip over the shoulder followed by an exquisite clip through deep midwicket. On his watch, Sri Lanka soared past the telling total of 300, and have every chance - weather permitting - of squaring the series with one match to come.

Scoreboard

SRI LANKA:

K Perera run out 1

D Gunathilaka c Ali b Rashid 62

K Mendis c Plunkett b Rashid 77

D Chandimal b Willey 63

A Matthews not out 67

S Prasanna b Willey 9

D Shanaka not out 19

EXTRAS: (2lb, 5w) 7

TOTAL: (5 wkts, 42 overs) 305

FOW: 1-8, 2-136, 3-158, 4-245, 5-259

BOWLING: Willey 8-0-58-2; Woakes 9-65-0; Plunkett 8-0-65-0; Rashid 9-0-57-2; Ali 8-0-58-0

TOSS: England

UMPIRES: Rob Bailey (ENG), Bruce Oxenford (AUS).

TV UMPIRE: Paul Reiffel (AUS)