At Lord's, June 3-7. Drawn. Toss: Sri Lanka.
In the course of three consecutive innings victories, England had disposed of opposition batsmen with systematic ruthlessness. Here they showed rather more clemency. How could the world's most destructive attack fire such a collective round of blanks? This was Lord's, where the pitch, like Helen Mirren, seems to get better with age. And England's potency, without their supreme swing bowler James Anderson, was badly compromised. They chose three hit-the-deck men, all over 6ft 5in, who looked even more alike when they were all bowling poorly.
Had England performed to the standard set in the first session at Melbourne or the last at Cardiff, Sri Lanka would not have made 300 in their first innings. As it was, they made 479. A draw - the first at Lord's in six Tests - apparently confirmed that England's quest to displace India as world No. 1 would remain every bit the "long-term goal" Strauss had declared it to be, although events later in the summer proved otherwise.
This was new territory for David Saker, England's refreshingly candid bowling coach. "For the first time, I'd say there are some technical issues," he said. "I've never seen this side bowl so many balls down leg side." Prior had to pick up the pieces - if not the glass from the dressing-room window that he smashed on the last day. The scorecard records that he conceded 32 byes; it doesn't add that most came from leg-side rubbish that gave him little chance.
Dilshan followed modern Lord's custom and put England in. It worked, initially: Strauss and Trott were lbw overbalancing to account for swing that didn't happen. And although it was too early to bring on a left-arm spinner, even for Pietersen, his jitters were clear when he chased Lakmal down the slope and was superbly caught by Dilshan in the gully.
From 22 for three, England found a way beyond 450 for the fifth time in six first innings. The chief scout, again, was Cook. Every stroke he played was utterly sensible - until he skied a pull to midwicket attempting to reach a third successive Test hundred. Meanwhile, Morgan shimmied decisively down to the spinners. Sri Lanka should have known that bowling persistently outside Prior's stump played to his strength; by the close, 48 of his 73 had been laced between square gully and extra cover. The bowlers straightened up next morning, and Prior edged five times; none cost him a fifth Test hundred, although the one dropped by Mahela Jayawardene at second slip ought to have done.
On the second afternoon, protesters outside the ground released a yellow weather balloon marked "Boycott Sri Lanka", demanding an independent investigation into alleged war crimes committed by government forces against Tamils in the Sri Lankan civil war. Back on terra firma, England were having a wretched time. Broad bowled too short, Tremlett too wide, and Finn, desperate to impress in his first Test since Perth, impatiently. As he fell away in delivery, his wrist fired the ball towards fine leg - and this on his home ground, where he knew the slope intimately. When Finn did find the edge, Cook spilled a straightforward chance; he evidently owed his place in the slips to his status as future England captain when, on merit, Trott would have been a safer bet. By the time Paranavitana edged another, 41 overs later, the openers had put on 207, and England's moment had passed.
Lord's stirs fire in the belly of the motivated cricketer like nowhere else - and Dilshan was not one to let England's sloppiness go unpunished. He could be forgiven the odd frenzied swipe way outside off stump, because his defence was stout and his punchy drives played with complete conviction. He guarded against a repeat of his dismissal by Swann at Cardiff - where he cut one on to his stumps - by getting on to the front foot and taking an early single 12 times in the 19 overs in which he faced Swann. Mostly, any discomfort was physical. On 55, Tremlett rapped him on his right thumb, as he had in the First Test, and as he did again on 192, only more painfully. Six balls later, Finn ran one through the gate to end one of the great innings in adversity at Lord's. Dilshan wandered off with a fracture, not to be seen again for the rest of the series, but with the highest Test score by a Sri Lankan on this ground and his authority as captain immeasurably enhanced.
Rain set in on the third afternoon and 64 overs had been lost by the time play restarted at 1.10 p.m. the following day. England got their act together and captured the last seven wickets for 85, giving them a lead of seven. They had a choice: bat aggressively to leave time for another charge, or grind Sri Lanka into submission. By doing first one, then the other, they succeeded in neither. Strauss attracted the delivery of the match from Welagedara, his second ball, which swung devilishly late and clipped him in front. It prompted debate about Strauss's capacity to locate his off stump against left-arm seam - though any batsman would have struggled to keep this ball out.
Runs came so easily that England led by 231 an hour into the last day. Lord's was awash with fanciful talk. Then, suddenly, England stopped: Cook and Pietersen mustered 20 in ten overs. Cook, throttled by Herath bowling into the rough with a five-four leg-side field, added just 26 in the morning. His second fifty took him 137 balls - simply too slow. Trying to make amends, he was stumped for the first time in a first-class career spanning 269 innings. It took Bell's shimmering half-century, chock-a-block with dancing feet and reverse sweeps, to save face. Strauss declared with the game conclusively safe, as he always intended. England's last glimpse passed in the 28th over, when Samaraweera was given lbw but reprieved on review, capping a poor game for umpire Doctrove. There would be no second Cardiff - Strauss accepted the draw with 15 overs unused.
The final day dribbled away in low farce. Bell and Prior had a mix-up familiar to every cricketer when the hit is on and silly runs are attempted. Prior stomped back to the dressing-room, where somehow he broke a windowpane, sending glass six metres on to MCC members below. A 22-year-old medical student, Emma Baker, suffered a small cut above her ankle. Prior was visibly upset and apologised alongside his captain when England took the field. The incident should have ended there and then, but it gained undue mileage thanks to the ECB, who issued two different explanations in close succession - the first, involving a glove, a bag and a row of bats, sounded like a Heath Robinson illustration gone wrong. Baker planned to keep a shard as a souvenir, which was less surprising once it emerged that, in March 2005, her brother Daniel had been standing dangerously close by when Adam Gilchrist smashed the window of a function room at Wellington's Basin Reserve with a six. England, though, would be seeking no mementos from a trying few days.
Man of the Match: T. M. Dilshan. Attendance: 96,855.