Spinners script England’s rare series win in Asia

Leach, Moeen and Rashid combined to pick up 18 of the 20 wickets to fall © Getty
Sri Lanka’s fight lasted only a little over half an hour on the fifth morning in Pallekele as Moeen Ali’s twin strikes and Jack Leach’s maiden fifer sealed a rare series win for England in the subcontinent. It took the visitors less than nine overs to wrap up Sri Lanka’s second innings on 243 for a 57-run victory in a match where spin claimed 38 wickets.
England changed the script early into the final session on the penultimate day with the wicket of a defiant Angelo Mathews before heavens opened up, allowing Sri Lanka to regroup. They needed 75 more and pinned their hopes on the last standing batsman – Niroshan Dickwella, who was unbeaten on 27 off 30.
However, the wicketkeeper-batsman flattered to deceive the final morning. Like how most batsman found success on this track, Dickwella also continued with sweeps and reverse sweeps as the home side picked up 14 quick runs in the extra 15 minutes that had been added to the day’s play to make up for the time lost to rain. However, Moeen ended their hopes of a come-from-behind win with the first of his double strikes in the space of three deliveries.
Dickwella was undone by a flighted off-break delivery that he, for a change, looked to drive through the covers, only for the outside edge to carry safely to Ben Stokes at first slip. It was only a matter of time for England from there on. Suranga Lakmal survived an lbw appeal off the first ball he faced, but he couldn’t survive for much longer. Moeen produced a very similar delivery for the Sri Lankan captain who also went for a drive but to be bowled through the gate.
Leach then caught the No. 11, Malinda Pushpakumara, off his own bowling to complete his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket, and England’s first series win in Sri Lanka in 17 long years.
Brief scores: England 290 (Sam Curran 64, Jos Buttler 63; Dilruwan Perera 4-61, Malinda Pushpakumara 3-89) and 346 (Joe Root 124, Ben Foakes 65*; Akila Dananjaya 6-115, Dilruwan Perera 3-96) beat Sri Lanka 336 (Roshen Silva 85, Dimuth Karunaratne 63; Jack Leach 3-70, Adil Rashid 3-75) and 243 (Angelo Mathews 88, Dimuth Karunaratne 57; Jack Leach 5-83, Moeen Ali 4-72) by 57 runs.