Sri Lanka defy the doomsayers
Nobody gave Sri Lanka a prayer when they slumped to 91 for 6 in reply to England's 551 at Lord's, but not only did they cling in that match, they sprung a surprise of their own by winning the final Test to square the series 1-1. Andrew Miller marks their performances out of ten. Click here for England's series review
Saved his best for last with a mesmeric performance on the fourth day at Trent Bridge where, but for an over-enthusiastic piece of fielding, he could have been eyeing up all ten English scalps. The panic he instilled at Edgbaston suggested that, with a few more runs to play with, he might have swiped that match from England as well. Talking of runs, his 33 in partnership with Vaas was absolutely pivotal to the outcome of the series. If this is his final appearance in England, he has left a legacy that should never be forgotten.
Until Sangakkara stood up to the stumps at Trent Bridge, Vaas's bowling was a shadow of former glories, but outswingers were not the story of his series. His revelatory batting was perhaps more instrumental even than Murali's bowling, for without his stoical half-century and cool marshalling of the tail at Lord's, Sri Lanka would have surely lost that match. He batted for longer than any other player in the series, was twice unbeaten with crucial contributions at Trent Bridge, and his 184 runs came at an obscene average of 92. An indispensable performance.
Aspersions were cast about his captaincy capabilities, but he answered them all with a cool and authoritative performance that dripped with quiet determination. His century at Lord's was his second in consecutive appearances - and neither match was lost - and provided inspiration to his young charges to follow suit. His irritation at falling for 45 at Trent Bridge led to a small fine for smashing his stumps, but the incident was rightly played down. What it did do, however, was reiterate his singular resolve. Sri Lanka's future is in safe and nurturing hands.
At times he batted with a God-like assurance, which makes his series figures of 231 runs at 38.50 seem a little earth-bound. A highest score of 66 did a disservice to his importance at No. 3, although each of his half-centuries contributed to the two most important innings of the series - the rearguard at Lord's and the consolidation at Trent Bridge. His keeping was tidy save the odd blemish standing up, but it was his role as Jayawardene's deputy that really set him apart. An ambitious and outspoken man, he was nevertheless content to play the perfect second-fiddle to his friend and team-mate.
The selectors erred in omitting him for Lord's, because Malinga's impact on the series proved explosive. He didn't quite get it right at Edgbaston, but come Trent Bridge he was right on the money, sending Collingwood to hospital for an X-ray on his ribs and unsettling even the mighty Pietersen. None of England's batsmen could master his unorthodox approach, and he was carefully used by his captain in a perfectly balanced four-prong attack.
A strangely high mark for a specialist batsman who mustered just 8 runs in two innings, but Jayasuriya's influence at Trent Bridge came as Murali's spin-twin. He took just three wickets but conceded his runs at barely two an over, as England had a tourniquet applied to their run-flow for the first and only time. His late inclusion in the squad threatened to undermine the tour party, but he took his omission at Edgbaston on the chin and came good in the role that most suited Sri Lanka's needs.
Two gutsy innings at Lord's and Edgbaston, though he - like many others - was unable to build on his starts. Shelved his natural flamboyance to good effect on both occasions. An important ally for Murali in his role at short-leg, where he held onto four catches, including three in England's great collapse.
Jon Lewis had his number all summer, dismissing him three times in eight balls at Worcester and Trent Bridge, but he emerged as the best placed of the three competing openers after his fighting century at Edgbaston. He rode his luck on that occasion - and it deserted him thereafter - but the experience of succeeding in hostile conditions will stand him in good stead.
A constant presence at the top of the Sri Lankan order, he started well with a half-century at Lord's, faded with a pair at Edgbaston, and rallied slightly with 34 and 46 at Trent Bridge. Had problems against the moving delivery but clung on when it most mattered.
A 19-year-old with a big future, Kapugedera was overawed on debut at Lord's, where he fell to his first ball in Test cricket and failed in the second innings as well, making just 10. But he came good at the last gasp of the series, forging a vital half-century that made the difference between an assailable target for England, and an impossible one.
Found English batsmen to be a tougher proposition than they had been three years earlier, when he helped skittle them for 88 on ODI debut at Dambulla. This time, he went wicketless in consecutive Tests, as Pietersen in particular savaged his lack of pace, and by Trent Bridge he had made way for the extra spinner. Nevertheless, he played his part with a vital 64 at Lord's - joining forces with Vaas to extinguish England's last hopes of victory.
A promising allrounder in the making, although his bowling never settled and he went unused in the final Test. Admirable efforts as a nightwatchman at Lord's, however, where he repelled England's attack for an entire session on the fourth day to sow the seeds of Sri Lanka's resistance.
One chance, two failures, as Hoggard zipped the ball through his fragile defences twice in the match.
A big matchwinning hundred on his last appearance against England in 2003-04, but England in May proved a different proposition.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo