IT used to be said of the England cricket team that “a strong Yorkshire makes a strong England”. Perhaps, after yesterday’s sun-kissed scenes at Headingley, not to mention the most dramatic game of the World Cup so far, cricket’s administrators will conclude that a successful trip to Yorkshire makes for a successful tournament.

Just don’t ask England’s batsmen, who failed miserably as they attempted to chase down a victory target of 233, if they enjoyed their excursion to God’s county.

Yesterday’s group game between England and Sri Lanka was the 27th match staged since the World Cup began more than three weeks ago, but the first to take place north of Manchester. Belatedly, the tournament has decided to embrace one of its most passionate heartlands.

“We’ve been to watch matches at Trent Bridge and Lord’s, but it’s nice not to have to fork out to book hotels and travel,” said James Watson, who made the short trip from Thirsk to watch yesterday’s game with his two young sons. “It’s a bit ridiculous that all the games so far have been in the South.

“We’ve got tickets for England’s final group game up at Durham, but they’re playing New Zealand and the worry is that both teams will be qualified by then.”

After yesterday’s game, that worry has subsided significantly from an England point of view.

“At least today’s game has a fair bit riding on it,” James carried on. “And it’s stopped raining.”

Ah yes, the rain. There have been some memorable moments in the World Cup so far – India’s politically-charged meeting with Pakistan, Eoin Morgan’s record-breaking knock against Afghanistan, New Zealand’s final-over win against South Africa – but they have been interspersed with sessions of sogginess.

More matches have already been lost to rain than at any previous tournament, and it has not gone unnoticed up here that most of the abandonments have been in the South. “It’s always like this up here,” said one shorts-wearing spectator on the Western Terrace, trying to explain the vagaries of the weather to the couple sporting Sri Lankan colours sitting alongside him as the afternoon session gathered pace. “I knew I should have brought my sun-cream.” By the end of play, the top of his head was the same ruby red hue as the tops being worn by the umpires in the middle.

That’s the challenge in watching cricket, pacing yourself. As Sri Lanka’s innings meandered along in the late morning, thoughts on the Western Terrace turned to lubrication.

For an hour or two, things were reasonably sedate, but by lunch-time the singing had started and the plastic beer snakes were beginning to form, with the drumming from a particularly vociferous pocket of Sri Lankan fans at the Kirkstall Lane End helping to enliven proceedings.

It was considerably less raucous than will probably be the case when Headingley stages the third Ashes Test in late August – presumably because the public draw to allocate World Cup tickets does not have a built-in bias towards members of the Barmy Army – but by late afternoon, the atmosphere was nevertheless alcohol-fuelled.

The exception was the large corporate area in the new Rugby Ground End Stand, with its gaping empty spaces highlighting a problem that afflicts most major sporting events. The World Cup sponsors clearly didn’t fancy taking up their free tickets. Perhaps like the World Cup’s match schedule, the prospect of having to leave London didn’t hugely appeal.

Those that stayed away missed out, because the game turned out to be an absolute cracker. Sri Lanka’s total of 232-9 looked badly insufficient given the size of some of the scores that have been posted this summer, but Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow went first ball and England’s reply disintegrated from there.

Local hero Joe Root was cheered to the rafters as he dug in belligerently, but the game was effectively up when big-hitting Durham all-rounder was joined by last man Mark Wood.

Stokes clubbed two huge sixes to threaten an unlikely revival, but Wood’s departure left heads in hands and England’s hopes of making the semi-finals hanging in the balance.

“Typical England,” concluded Helen Morrison, watching on as a disappointed Eoin Morgan spoke on the pitch. “The minute they come up here, they fall to pieces.”