Ben Stokes turned matches, and Sri Lanka's batting lacks maturity, but even with all that, and despite the 3-0 result, there wasn't much separating the teams.
These are Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurusingha's views after Sri Lanka were whitewashed at home by England. While in the first Test in Galle, Sri Lanka were blown away by 211 runs, the hosts had their moments in Pallekele and at the SSC. They lost the second Test by 57; the third by 42.
"I thought it was a very closely fought series especially the last two games," Hathurusingha said. "The difference between the two teams was very little. I thought England handled tough situations well. Ben Stokes was the difference in the last two games, I thought. "Other than the first Test, I thought we fought hard in the second and third games. A few issues we have to sort out, no doubt. While batting, we took some wrong options and that is the reason why we lost. Had certain things gone our way, the result could have been different."
Stokes hit 187 runs at an average of 31.16 in the series, but it was his contributions in the field and with the ball that Hathurusingha made particular mention of. At Pallekele, he effected a crucial direct-hit run out of Dimuth Karunaratne - Sri Lanka's best batsman of the series - to cut short what had been a promising second-wicket stand in the first innings. Then at the SSC, he delivered a furious 10-over spell of hostile bowling either side of tea on the second day, as Sri Lanka lost nine wickets for 67 runs, in what turned out to be the definitive passage of play.
"When things were going our way, Stokes was brilliant with the ball and on the field," Hathurusingha said. "He took the game away from us in both games. When we were 173 for one in the first innings here, again England took the initiative away from us."
In what was otherwise a dispiriting series, perhaps the only bright spark for Sri Lanka and Hathurusingha was the spin attack, which had to contend with the departure of Rangana Herath following the first Test. England never made 350, though they probably would have at Galle, where they declared on 322 for 6 in the second innings.
Herath's like-for-like replacement Malinda Pushpakumara took nine wickets in the series, but it was the younger spinners who made the more impactful contributions. In Pallekele, offspinner Akila Dananjaya, who is presently awaiting the results of his biomechanics test after being called for throwing, took 6 for 115 in the second innings. At the SSC, left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan claimed 5 for 95 in the first innings.
Those efforts were not enough to cover for batting failures, however. Four Sri Lanka batsmen made it into the eighties in the series, but no further. England, meanwhile, had four centurions in Ben Foakes, Keaton Jennings, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow.
"I thought in these last two games, given our inexperienced attack due to the absence of Rangana we competed well," Hathurusingha said. "The big difference is four hundred they scored and no hundreds from us. The toss has got lot to do as well when you are playing on these types of wickets. Of course we should have used the DRS better on hindsight. But all in all, England played better."