England storm home at Cardiff
A rampant England achieved the incredible by pulling off an innings-and-14-run win over Sri Lanka in the first npower Test.
The tourists were blown away for 82 in 24.4 astonishing overs on the final evening at Cardiff thanks to an electric bowling display spearheaded by Chris Tremlett.
He claimed two wickets in his first two overs en route to figures of 4-40, Graeme Swann ran through a visibly panicky middle order to finish with 4-16 and Stuart Broad bounced the tail out to bring another Cardiff Test to a wonderfully thrilling conclusion.
A win that appeared improbable - nay, nigh on impossible - when England declared their first innings on 596 for five 10 minutes into a rain-delayed final day was thus completed at 5.35pm with more than 26 overs to spare.
It says much for the potency of the England attack - and the manner in which they approached an innings that many expected to be little more than a glorified net session for their bowlers - that the absence of James Anderson had long since been forgotten by the time Suranga Lakmal fended Broad to Alastair Cook at third slip.
The efforts of Tremlett, Swann and Broad - and Jonathan Trott, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell before them - ensured the loss of 124 overs during the course of five rain-ravaged days was ultimately immaterial.
They also rendered as inconsequential the argument that England should have declared overnight, rather than adding five runs in two overs and allowing Ian Bell to go to a 159-ball century.
As meekly as Sri Lanka folded today - itself something of a surprise given the resilience shown in the first innings - this victory said much for England’s supreme confidence.
What is more, a fourth innings win in five Tests stretching back to their triumphant winter Ashes campaign will surely convince a few more observers that an unbeaten summer is not beyond them.
Sri Lanka’s decline was swift, to say the least, and interim coach Stuart Law faces the unenviable prospect of lifting a side bowled out for the joint fourth lowest total in their Test history.
Tremlett set the collapse in motion by removing Tharanga Paranavitana, who batted for four and a half hours in the first innings, with the last ball of the second over. Drawn forward by Tremlett, the left-hander edged low to Andrew Strauss’ left at first slip.
Tillakaratne Dilshan managed one booming cover drive before he was undone by Tremlett’s extra bounce, offering a simple return catch via glove and thigh pad as he defended off the back foot. A referral failed to save the Sri Lanka skipper.
Although Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, the two stalwarts of the Sri Lanka side, saw the tourists to tea without further mishap, they fell in quick succession after the interval to spark a remarkable slide during which six wickets tumbled for 19 runs durng a frantic half-hour spell.
Tremlett located Jayawardene’s outside edge to provide Strauss with the most comfortable of slip catches, while Swann heightened the pressure by striking three times in eight balls
Appreciable turn, a hint of low bounce and an injudicious choice of shot conspired against Thilan Samaraweera, who played on to leg stump as he attempted to cut; Sangakkara, propping forward, edged to slip; and Farveez Maharoof’s decision to review a caught-behind decision was founded on hope rather than expectation.
Tremlett was withdrawn from the attack despite having Prasanna Jayawardene, pulling, caught off the glove down the leg side - but only after review.
Swann’s quicker ball beat Rangana Herath’s sweep; Thisara Perera was superbly taken by Ian Bell at short-leg after clubbing a defiant 20 (it was the highest score in an innings that featured four ducks); and Broad’s hostility was always likely to be too much for Lakmal.
It was one of the few predictable moments on a day when logic went out of the window.