Victory achieved off penultimate ball of the day with James Anderson the last man dismissed, as Moeen Ali’s rearguard hundred goes in vain
Sri Lanka beat England with just one ball to spare, winning the second Test by 100 runs amidst mounting tension and drama at Headingley on Tuesday (June 24), to take the two-match series 1-0.
The result meant Sri Lanka won its first series of more than one Test on English soil. It had previously won the one-off Test at The Oval in 1998, a game remembered for Muttiah Muralitharan's match haul of 16 wickets.
This was also Sri Lanka’s third win in England, having won a Test at Trent Bridge in 2006.
The first Test had also ended in a thrilling finish, with Sri Lanka holding on for a draw with nine wickets down. For large parts of Tuesday, it looked as if England would do the same, but a well-directed short ball from Shaminda Eranga got James Anderson, England’s No.11, fending to Rangana Herath at short leg to end the game in Sri Lanka’s favour.
England, who began the final session on 173 for 7, needing to bat at least 40 overs to escape with a draw, was bowled out in the last over for 249. That left Moeen Ali unbeaten on a heroic 108, even as the Sri Lankan side broke into celebrations after the dramatic win.
There were more than 20 overs remaining when Anderson walked out. But he survived for 55 balls on nought until, off gloving Eranga off the penultimate ball of what was the final over of the day.
Ali, who batted for six and a half hours, had played the major role in almost getting England to a draw. England had resumed on 57 for 5, having collapsed in the face of Dhammika Prasad's dramatic burst of four wickets for 15 runs on Monday.
England had initially dominated the match, being 311 for 3 after tea on the second day, thanks to Sam Robson's maiden Test century, and they later reduced Sri Lanka to 277 for 7, a lead of just 169.
But Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain and the Man of the Match, responded with a superb Test-best 160 and a key eighth-wicket stand of 149 with Herath, who made a valuable 48. Mathews's hundred, his second of the series, followed his Test-bowling return of 4 for 44 earlier in this match.
In the morning, Joe Root and Ali kept Sri Lanka at bay for more than two hours. Root fell to Pradeep, getting a leading edge to gully when he was on 31. Prasad then picked up a maiden five-wicket haul in Tests, getting Matt Prior, the wicketkeeper, out with a lifter. He eventually ended with figures of 5 for 50.
At tea, England was 173 for 7, needing to bat for a minimum of 40 more overs. Chris Jordan then fell lbw to Herath for 21 to leave England 212 for 8. Stuart Broad hung around for 24 balls before he too was lbw to Herath (3 for 59) for nought to leave England on the brink of defeat at 228 for 9.
Anderson though held firm, while an unflustered Ali went to a 259-ball century with his 16th four, a leg-glance off Pradeep. But Ali, 27, could only watch as Eranga, with the penultimate ball of the match, took his only wicket of the innings to seal Sri Lanka's dramatic success.