Dom Sibley and Jos Buttler guide England win over Sri Lanka All out for 126, Sri Lanka set a target of 164 in front of England
Second Test, Galle (day four of five)
Sri Lanka 381 (Mathews 110, Anderson 6-40) & 126 (Bess 4-49, Leach 4-59)
England 344 (Root 186, Embuldeniya 7-137) & 164-4 (Sibley 56*, Buttler 46*)
England win 🎉
They defeat Sri Lanka by six wickets to take the Test series 2-0 👏
— ICC (@ICC) January 25, 2021
England has become the first overseas side to win six consecutive Tests in Sri Lanka. For the first time since 1914, England has won five away Tests on the spin. Their epic 2021 is underway with a 2-0 win, which should never be sniffed at away from home – especially when losing two tosses and with a host of top players unavailable. Greater challenges lie in wait in India, where they fly this week, but this is a terrific victory.
England is fourth in the World Test Championship table, 0.5% behind third-placed Australia.
— ICC (@ICC) January 25, 2021
Dom Sibley and Jos Buttler arrested the intractable fall of wickets – 15 in the day’s play – to forge an unbeaten 75-run stand, seeing England home to a 2-0 series win by the end of the day’s play.
England had begun the day by adding five runs to their overnight 339 for nine, conceding a first-innings deficit of 37. They then proceeded to bowl Sri Lanka out for 126, before chasing 164 despite the dominant Joe Root making just 11 (taking his series tally to 426).
The chase was not without its nervy moments, but when is it ever not with the ball turning on the subcontinent? England batted around Sibley, who played bravely given he made six runs in three innings before this, with Jonny Bairstow and Buttler providing the impetus.
It was a dramatic morning session that saw the game lurch forward. England added those five runs, then took six wickets, three each for the spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess.
Bess and Leach bowled much better than their wicketless first innings but were the beneficiaries of the sort of charitable batting not seen from Sri Lanka since the first day of the series when they were bowled out for 135. Kusal Perera and Angelo Mathews tried big sweeps, Dinesh Chandimal – with cheeky words from Root ringing in his ears – fell slogging, and Niroshan Dickwella chipped to cover.
Shortly after lunch, the pair had another wicket each, leaving Sri Lanka 78 for eight, just 115 in front.
It was timely, then, that Lasith Embuldeniya, who has been Sri Lanka’s best bowler by such a distance, made his highest first-class score (40, previously 26). He put the pressure back on Leach and Bess with a series of boundaries, meaning Root turned to himself.
The captain duly picked up Embuldeniya and Asitha Fernando in successive balls. Root’s series has been a statistical feast as he rose to fourth in England’s run-scoring charts, but the number that might please him most is those two wickets taking his bowling average (47.19) had dipped under his batting average, which is ticking back towards 50.
Root’s wickets also meant England took all 10 wickets with the seam in the first innings and all 10 with a spin in the second.
But for Embuldeniya’s intervention, England would have been chasing even less. Their fielders had helped, with Zak Crawley taking three catches at short leg, and Jimmy Anderson – only required to bowl two overs – sprinting back to take a skier off Chandimal at mid-on.
The sight of Leach and Bess looking so threatening and the ball turning plenty was conflicting for England fans, though; if they could, surely Embuldeniya – who took seven for 137 in the first innings – could too. And so it proved.
He picked up the wickets of Crawley and Bairstow, before Root fell to Ramesh Mendis in a strange fashion, bowled behind his legs sweeping. Root and Embuldeniya have been the outstanding players in the series; strangely, Root dismissed Embuldeniya more often than Embuldeniya dismissed Root.
Embuldeniya picked up one more, Dan Lawrence, taking him to 10 for the match, but in the obdurate Sibley – who survived three “umpire’s call” lbw reviews – and Buttler’s clinical class in chases, England had enough in the tank to complete a remarkable victory.
Joe Root | Winning captain | MoM | MoS: It was a fine performance to come out on top after having lost the toss. We had the worst part of the wicket for most part and that speaks of the guys’ determination. From Sibley and Buttler, to see us home was a brilliant way to finish the series. We wanted to create some chaos with the ball and make it difficult for them to score boundaries, and we’re glad we did that. There were certainly some difficult balls to deal with. But what I am proud of is how calm we were in the chase. Credit to the bowlers as well to make it difficult for them. We are on an upward curve as a team. To do well with very little preparation has been very pleasing. In four more Tests in these conditions, there will be different pitches and different conditions, but we need to keep moving forward. We want to improve in all departments, that’s what we are chasing. We want to get more consistent, and we have made some strides forward in these two matches and just want to keep doing that. It is always hard to look past this win as my best, a lot of good things to take forward.
Joe Root is the Player of the Match and the Player of the Series 🏅
— ICC (@ICC) January 25, 2021
Dinesh Chandimal | Losing captain: We were outplayed today. We did all the hard work over the last three days, but as a batting unit we made the same mistakes we made in the first Test on the first day. We need to learn to bat like Root. We need to be patient with the bat. We did well in patches, but it isn’t good enough against a team like England. Credit to them, they did really well. Even I didn’t understand the collapse. I played a rash shot, so I take the responsibility. But nobody in our lineup took responsibility. A score of 250 would have been good on this wicket. Going forward we need to learn how to bat with patience. But the guys will learn moving forward. Embuldeniya was outstanding throughout the series. He is doing all the hardwork at practice and he always asks how he could improve with the bat and the ball. He is going to be an asset for us going forward. I am really disappointed with the way I batted. I have to learn from my mistakes and I will come back strong.