England beat Sri Lanka by eight wickets
England secured their first win of the year and ensured they would start the summer on top of the world rankings as they defeated Sri Lanka by eight wickets in the second Test.
Chasing 94 to end a four-match losing streak, England did not allow memories of their fourth-innings capitulation for 72 against Pakistan earlier in the year affect them.
Captain Andrew Strauss did fall for duck in the first over, but Alastair Cook hit a fluent 49 not out and Kevin Pietersen made an explosive 42 not out – hitting a match-winning six midway through the final afternoon at the P Sara Stadium.
Graeme Swann had earlier taken two wickets, finishing with six in the innings and match figures of 10 for 181. Play resumed with Sri Lanka 33 ahead on 218 for six, with England eventually claiming the final four wickets for 60 runs.
It took the entire morning session and there was no shortage of talking points – with dropped catches, a DRS reprieve for Mahela Jayawardene and a frustrating last-wicket partnership that added 28 to the England chase.
Swann, whose double strike in the penultimate over last night tipped the balance of the match in England’s favour, almost struck with the fourth ball of the morning.
He surprised Angelo Mathews with some sharp turn but Cook was unable to claim a tough low catch at short-leg.
Mathews had a second life on 12, Swann again the bowler and Cook grassing a second chance.
Jayawardene, resuming on 55, had added just three when James Anderson won an lbw verdict against him.
He immediately called for a review and there was enough evidence of an inside edge to over-rule the initial call.
Swann finally got his reward at the third time of asking, Jayawardene gloving a near undroppable chance to the grateful Cook to go for 64.
England were suitably delighted to see the back of a man whose series tally comes to 354 at an average of 88.5.
His namesake Prasanna Jayawardene detained England for just six balls before being bowled around his legs to give Swann his sixth wicket.
It is the second time Swann has achieved the feat following his return of 10 for 217 against Bangladesh in March 2010.
Mathews took his cue to attack, thrashing Tim Bresnan for four over mid-on, but lost another partner when Rangana Herath nicked Samit Patel to Anderson at slip.
Last man Suranga Lakmal survived a review off his third delivery and kept Mathews company for 10 overs as he compiled 46.
Steven Finn saw off Mathews five balls after joining the attack, with Strauss taking a good running catch just before lunch and keeping the chase under three figures.
Sri Lanka opened with spin at both ends and Strauss’ mood nosedived when he was bowled for a six-ball duck by Tillakaratne Dilshan. The off-spinner had also dismissed Strauss in the first innings and, having answered his critics with a gutsy 61 in that knock, his frustration here was palpable.
Nerves were tested when Jonathan Trott survived an lbw appeal – and a subsequent referral – against Herath before he and Cook got the scoreboard moving with a series of singles.
Cook picked up the pace with three boundaries in the space of seven deliveries but Trott was gone lbw for five when Herath gambled on a second review and won.
That left England on 31 for two, with first-innings centurion Pietersen next up.
He was off the mark with a brisk single and Cook added a fourth boundary when he cut Dilshan hard past point.
England’s fifty came up as Cook drilled Suraj Randiv for four through extra-cover.
Pietersen was not to be outdone, lifting successive Herath deliveries for six and four in the next over and flashing Dilshan to the cover boundary.
With three needed to win, Pietersen whipped Dilshan into the on-side for a second six to end a disappointing winter programme for England on a celebratory note.