England’s spinners came to the fore in thrilling style and Dom Sibley passed a significant test of character as the tourists sealed a 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka on a dramatic day in Galle.
Joe Root’s side had spent most of the first three days chasing the game in this second Test but made their move emphatically on Monday, with Jack Leach and Dom Bess flooring the accelerator as they shared eight wickets to bowl Sri Lanka out for just 126.
That left England chasing a potentially-thorny 164 for victory, with a wearing pitch and an ebullient Lasith Embuldeniya standing in their way. For once they had to get there without a significant contribution from the bat of Root, with Sibley and Jos Buttler sharing a priceless stand of 75 in a six-wicket success.
Buttler’s 46 not out came quicker, more pleasingly and with a greater degree of confidence but he has been in good form for some time and is a well-renowned player of spin, meaning Sibley’s hard-working 56no was the more significant.
After managing just six runs from his previous three innings he was facing rising speculation over his place for next month’s tour of India and dug in to play his part.
Stat of the day
Chat of the day
It might not have the quotability of Andrew Flintoff’s well-loved “Mind the windows, Tino” but just a couple of seconds after Root was overheard giving this unwarranted advice to his opposite number, Dinesh Chandimal launched a silly shot straight to James Anderson.
First time for everything
England became the first side in Test history to take 10 wickets exclusively with seam in one innings (Anderson, Wood, Curran in the first) and 10 wickets exclusively with spin in another (Leach, Bess, Root in the second).
Jonny Bairstow spent 2020 playing only white-ball cricket for England but has enjoyed a sound return to the Test arena. Even so, there was reason to chuckle when he planted Ramesh Mendis for six over long leg, with the red Kookaburra landing straight in a pot of the groundsman’s white paint.