Sri Lanka comprehensively beaten at Edgbaston
The England football team might have thrown away a winning position in Japan, but the country's cricketers made no mistake at Edgbaston after bursting through what had been stubborn Sri Lankan resistance with the new ball after lunch on the fourth day. An interval score of 225 for four became 272 all out within 51 balls of the new ball being taken as Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Caddick used the humid conditions to make the ball swing and rip through the batting order.
The day had begun with Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene continuing their overnight partnership. The general feeling was that their dismissal would signal the end for Sri Lanka, but that was by no means what happened. Atapattu was in resolute mood and such a frame of mind could have contributed to his downfall as, in the third over of the day, he decided not to play at a ball outside off stump that he might have otherwise attacked. The decision to leave came late and he dragged the ball onto his stumps as he tried to take his bat out of the line.
Jayawardene went past fifty by playing some quality shots, particularly through the off side. He got a good one from Caddick, however, that he edged to first slip where it was taken low down by Graham Thorpe.
There was a forecast of thundery showers for later in the day. With humidity rising and clouds gathering, and with Aravinda de Silva and Hashan Tillakaratne batting with a certain ease, England would have regarded the after-lunch session when the new ball became due as being crucial. The bowlers did not let them down.
It was Caddick who set the trend. With the sixth delivery using the new ball, he produced a swinging yorker to account for Tillakaratne. With the first ball of his next over, Caddick squared up de Silva to have him caught at slip by Thorpe. From the other end, Hoggard induced Russel Arnold to drive to Ashley Giles at mid-off and, two balls later, bowled Charitha Buddika for nought.
Chaminda Vaas came in with bat flailing. He did so with some effect, hammering Hoggard for six and four and forcing Nasser Hussain to bring back Giles to pose some more searching questions, even though the new ball was only eight overs old. After an innings of 28 at a run-a-ball, Vaas was stumped for 28 and with Muttiah Muralitharan deciding against batting with his injured shoulder, England had won by an innings and 111 runs.
England went to Old Trafford one-up last year against Pakistan and finished with the series all-square. They went to Auckland one-nil up against New Zealand and lost to leave the series drawn. The footballers were one-nil up in Japan and drew one-all. The England cricketers will be hoping they can hang on until the final whistle this time - even with Muralitharan likely to be even more of a handful in conditions that will suit him that much better at his adopted home ground in Manchester.