England win by 8 wickets
After an entire winter of collapsing in a heap as soon as they saw the finish line, England finally got over it thanks to perhaps their finest team performance since the Ashes.
Rarely does a bowler take 10 wickets in a match and not be the game’s stand-out player, but rarely does a batsman bat as if he’s on a different planet and completely change the pace of the match. Graeme Swann bowled wonderfully well in both innings, particularly the second where he removed Sri Lanka’s entire middle order by himself. The way Kevin Pietersen played, both during his first innings 150 and his late flourish to take England home this morning, was something else entirely. We have waxed lyrical about the Pietersen performance before, so suffice to say the way he came out and blasted his team to victory today was merely an extension of that brilliance.
There are any number of moments we could choose here. We could talk about Jimmy Anderson’s stunning spell with the new ball on the first morning which demolished the Sri Lankan top order. We could talk about Swann trapping Mahela Jayawardene LBW just before the second new ball, or perhaps the solid foundations built by England’s top three. Pietersen turning on the style was a pivotal moment, as was the penultimate over of day four which saw off Thilan Samaraweera and nightwatchman Suraj Randiv. But actually, it’s been a long time since England won a Test match and we’re a vindictive bunch. Tillakaratne Dilshan has spent most of this game whining, whether that be at being given out or at a batsman daring to attack his filthy bowling. Seeing his latest offering launched into the Colombo sky to seal the victory was especially satisfying, and we were pouring out pints of celebratory gin before it even hit the ground.
Sri Lanka are now done until mid-September and the World T20, England are now done until early May and the visit of the West Indies. It’s difficult to see what anyone’s actually learnt from this tour, beyond the fact that two-match series are largely a waste of time. Both teams will be slightly happier than they were a month ago – England have finally got some positive experiences on the sub-continent while Sri Lanka have won at home without Murali – but there was so little time to really draw any conclusions from that it is unlikely to stick in the memory. Were it not for Pietersen’s innings it would have been a dull series indeed.