Swann and Broad star in thrilling win
England 164 for 8 (Maharoof 3-34) beat Sri Lanka 164 (Dilshan 70, Swann 4-34) by two wickets (D/L method)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It is the second time in six one-day internationals that Broad has helped England across the line in a tense scenario after he and Ravi Bopara completed a thrilling chase against India, at Old Trafford, in August. As in that match the run rate was never a major issue for England even when they slumped to 107 for 7. It meant Swann, who earlier secured the best figures by an England spinner in ODIs since Michael Vaughan's 4 for 22 against the same opposition in 2002, and Broad were able to bat time. Swann gained two crucial boundaries off the extra pace of Lasith Malinga, who was also driven for a four by Broad to take England within two runs of their target.
A low, slow pitch became even tougher for batting as the day wore on and Sri Lanka fought hard to defend 164. Farveez Maharoof removed key figures in the top order - taking his series tally to 10 wickets at 9.5 apiece - and Sanath Jayasuriya claimed Owais Shah and Paul Collingwood to keep his team in with a shout.
Needing early wickets to stay in the contest after stuttering to 164, mainly due to a ninth-wicket stand of 46 between Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dilhara Fernando, Chaminda Vaas found the first breakthrough when Alastair Cook prodded forward to an outswinger and provided a thin edge. Phil Mustard tried to take the game away from Sri Lanka with an aggressive approach, but after three handsome boundaries was unlucky to drag Maharoof into his leg stump with the aid of the thigh pad.
Kevin Pietersen's poor run continued when he played across the line after ticking the scoreboard over with Ian Bell. Pietersen clearly wasn't happy with the decision, but he hasn't found anywhere near his best form in the series and is again talking about the overload of fixtures that England face. When a player hits a slump on tour it can be hard to find a way out.
Bell, on the other hand, has continued to middle the ball with the same confidence that he did against India, but hasn't managed to build an innings. He used his feet against the quick bowlers to try and combat the movement and played a delightful back-foot drive off Fernando. However, trying to repeat the shot off Maharoof he couldn't keep the ball along the ground and it was intercepted by a flying Dilshan from backward point.
All the quick bowlers used a liberal supply of slower balls, especially Fernando, but it was the wise old head of Jayasuriya who conjured the breakthroughs when they were needed. Shah had a rush of blood, charging down the pitch and missing, then Collingwood prodded forward and was taken on the pad in front of middle. When Bopara was trapped lbw by Malinga, the momentum was with Sri Lanka.
But Swann continued to make up for lost time in his international career, playing pace and spin with ease. Two balls after giving away a no-ball - and with it a free hit - Fernando slipped a quick yorker through Swann, but England had just enough left in the tank with Broad and Sidebottom.
Kumar Sangakkara's wicket provided the major talking point when he slashed at Broad, but neither the bowler nor Mustard hinted at an appeal only to watch Sangakkara turn on his heels and head for the dressing room. A wide-eyed Broad began a surprised series of high-fives with his team-mates, while Mustard again showed an unusually quiet side for a wicketkeeper after also not appealing for a thin edge during the second match.
With Dilshan and Chamara Silva stabilising the innings, Swann was quick to make his impact after being handed the ball. His fourth delivery accounted for Silva, via a bottom edge onto the boot which was well grabbed by Mustard. Swann's next two scalps were down to superb use of flight as he accepted return catches off Jehan Mubarak and Maharoof. Mubarak had gone inside out over long-off for the first six of the innings, but Swann responded with a slower, loopier delivery which had the batsman in two minds and resulted in a tame leading edge.
As his team-mates disintegrated, Dilshan held firm with a fine response to his omission from the Test tour of Australia. When he reached fifty off 65 balls he pumped his fist towards the dressing room and kissed the badge of his helmet. He'd given his side a chance, but ultimately they couldn't quite pull it off in the field and travel to Colombo needing to win two matches to take a series they'd been expected to dominate.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo