England 290 and 346
Sri Lanka 336 and 243
England win by 57 runs and lead the series 2-0
This Test started with us up a mountain, trying to keep up with the score as we staggered up to the highest point of Little Adam’s Peak, and it ended very similarly, with Jon and I sharing earphones to listen to the last couple of overs, sitting in a patch of shade at the top of Sigiriya Rock.
In the end it was a very quick wrap-up of a Test that had been unpredictable throughout. England needed to take three wickets, and Moeen Ali removed both Dickwella and Lakmal in the sixth over of the day, and Jack Leach took the last, three overs later, to make it his first five-for. Barely half an hour after the day’s play had started, it was all over.
Achieving a series win in Asia is a great achievement for England, and especially against a side who have put up a very good fight, especially in this Test. There were certainly times during the last five days when I would rather have been in Sri Lanka’s shoes than England’s. I think the two real strength of this England team which have allowed them to do well in this series are, firstly, a strong spin attack: none of the four spin bowlers (Joe Root contributed too, occasionally) are as good as Graeme Swann in his pomp, but having four good spinners is better than having one great one, over the course of a whole Test.
The second strength has been the batting of the lower-middle order. Root may have been the stand-out batsman in England’s second innings, batting at four even when there had been a nightwatchman, but it was Jos Buttler and Sam Curran in the first innings who kept England in the game at all, and Ben Foakes in the second innings who really worked to make sure there was a total to give England’s bowlers some hope. This really only reiterates what we found in Galle: England don’t have a very strong top order at the moment, but they bat very deep. A fifty looks as likely to come from the number nine as the number three (whoever that might be on any given day).
England’s next job is to see whether they can play well and compete in a dead rubber. It has been one of their failings in the past, so it will be interesting to see how they tackle Colombo next Thursday. We should get a good idea of their mindset once we know the team: it would be tempting for the selectors to rest a few overworked players and give some of the others in the squad a run, but that might signal a lazy don’t-care attitude. Eoin Morgan tried something similar in the last of the ODIs before the Test series, and it went horribly wrong for previously unbeatable England. But on the other hand, it feels like Jonny Bairstow in particular, and possibly Broad too, really deserve a go. So we’ll see what happens.
Once the game was over, Jon and I spent the rest of the morning exploring Sigiriya, the ruins of a 4th Century palace built on the top of a huge rock outcrop rising above the jungle, with almost sheer sides only punctuated by the precarious steps and ledges that allow a stream of tourists access to the summit. It is surrounded by further ruins, of palaces and monks’ retreats, in an intricate and extensive water garden. A really amazing place.
By noon we were drenched in sweat and ready for a break, when conveniently the heavens opened. We spent the afternoon in Dambulla’s Cave Temples – carved out of the rock in a hill south of Dambulla are five chambers decorated floor to ceiling with Buddhas, some standing, some sitting, some huge ones reclining; some sculptures, some paintings on the walls and ceiling, but all quite incredible: there are more than 150 in total.
So that was two World Heritage sites and a series win. Quite a successful day all told.
EDITED to add another highlight for the day: my stats question was read out on the BBC’s Test Match Special podcast, with Dan Norcross and Andy Zaltzman, and Zaltz failed to answer it. To be fair, it was a pretty tough question or I’d have looked up the answer myself. My question was: “So far in his Test career, Rory Burns’ scores have been 9, 23, 43 and 59. This means that each innings has become his highest score. What is the longest streak that a cricketer has had from their debut in which the number of runs they score in each innings has been higher than all previous scores?” If anyone can shed light on this, I think both I and Andy Zaltzman would like to know!