Muttiah Muralitharan took the second new ball and got Sri Lanka close to victory with the wickets of Matt Prior (top) and Ian Bell in successive overs © Getty Images

Patience, Mahela Jayawardene said, was the key to Sri Lanka winning the first Test against England at Kandy and going 1-up in the three-Test series.

Jayawardene said that his team knew that despite getting the early breakthroughs in the morning they would come up against tough situations. "We had to be very patient and wait for the opportunities. With the second new ball the opportunities came along.

"To get those early wickets before lunch break was very important. We had a lot of time to work around a few other things. The fast bowlers bowled brilliantly in good areas and created a lot of pressure. Once the ball got older it was quite difficult to do much because the wicket got slower and slower. [Muttiah] Muralitharan came into the party very late and made a very good impact with those two big wickets. After that we knew that we could create more pressure and get those [last] wickets.

The last time England and Sri Lanka met in Kandy in 2003-04, Michael Vaughan batted for over seven hours for his century and saved the match for England.

"I thought we had more firepower this time around with Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando to create further opportunities," Jayawardene said.

There were no Vaughan heroics on display today. He was dismissed in the fourth over of the morning by Chaminda Vaas and in no time England were reduced to 90 for 5. Ian Bell and Matt Prior gave them a lifeline with a fighting stand of 109 for the seventh wicket but Murali produced two outstanding deliveries with the second new ball to send back both batsmen and open the gates for a Sri Lankan victory.

"In the subcontinent we do try a few things with the new ball. It does get through and does turn a bit on these types of wickets," said Jayawardene.

"It is quite difficult for the batsmen. We felt that the first ball was very soft. Once the second new ball came, we thought we should throw it to Murali to see whether he can get anything out of it. He did it in the first innings with [Paul] Collingwood. The dismissals were similar today. It was good that we had those kinds of options," he said.

Though his side now has the series lead, Jayawardene said Sri Lanka could not underestimate England.

"They've got some quality players and we just need to make sure now that we got an advantage. From being 40 for 5 in the first hour of the Test match and to come back and win this, we are delighted with the effort. A lot of credit should go to a few guys like Kumar [Sangakkara, who was the man of the match], Vaasy [Chaminda Vaas] and Dilhara.

"A lot of the players contributed brilliantly and showed a lot of character in the team. We shouldn't let ourselves down by saying its SSC and then Galle. We just need to make sure we press this advantage and don't let England come back at us," he said.

Jayawardene further said the Australia tour had tough for Sri Lanka and that they had learnt quite a bit from the two Test matches they played there.

"As a young team we learnt how we need to improve our character and not give up a game after the first couple of days, but to keep fighting for everything and create more opportunities. These kind of things we showed in this Test match. The way forward for us is to continue to do that," Jayawardene said.

Commenting on Ryan Sidebottom's lbw decision, Jayawardene said: "We copped some bad decisions in Australia not so long ago. That's how the game goes. It was unfortunate at that kind of moment. It was a great Test match. I thought the umpires had a pretty tough Test match [and] they made some really good decisions throughout."