At Leeds, June 20-24. Sri Lanka won by 100 runs. Toss: England.
For the second time in nine days, these teams took a Test to the wire. At the end of a draining final session, with England two balls away from salvaging a draw that had looked beyond them at the start of play, Eranga steamed in at last man Anderson and speared one in at his throat. Anderson later admitted he had promised himself to take anything short on the body. Now, in an instinctive act of self-preservation, he threw up his hands. The ball looped off his bat in a slow, apologetic arc to Herath at short backward square. Sri Lanka had won their first Test series in England.
What happened next was reminiscent of the 2005 Ashes. After resisting for 81 minutes, Anderson slumped to the ground in despair, just as Australia's Brett Lee had at Edgbaston. This time there was no Andrew Flintoff to provide consolation. With Anderson apparently frozen in time as the world carried on around him, the Sri Lankans' joy was unconfined. Mathews and his men wheeled away in celebration, before throwing themselves on top of each other in a triumphant heap of humanity. It was one of the proudest moments in their history. The extraordinary finish left Anderson in tears and unable to talk to Mike Atherton at the post-match presentation as he collected his Man of the Series award. Moments later, Cook captured the moment: "That just shows to everyone who doesn't know us as blokes what it means to play for England. That's the raw emotion of a bloke who's put everything into those 81 minutes of batting."
Moeen Ali, Anderson's partner, had himself put everything into 385 minutes of batting, so nearly helping England to one of the greatest escapes: no side had saved a Test after going into the final day five wickets down. England - 57 for five in pursuit of 350 - faced disgrace as well as defeat, before Ali batted throughout the day for an unbeaten 108 in 281 balls, his maiden Test hundred in only his second match. Dubbed "The Beard That's Feared" by his county Worcestershire, he showed he was far more than a marketing gimmick. This was a masterclass in technique and temperament, with the wider context always taking priority over personal success. Only his failure to keep the strike for the game's last over might have been questionable - although by then Anderson had done enough to suggest he could deal with Eranga.
It was a scenario that would have seemed far-fetched on the second evening. Then, England were cruising at 311 for three in reply to Sri Lanka's first-innings 257; there was even talk of a three-day finish. But the last seven wickets fell for 54, restricting the lead to 108 when it should have been twice as many. Sri Lanka responded with 457, featuring a Test-best 160 by Mathews to follow Test-best figures of four for 44. It was a performance that turned the series on its head.
Cook's tactics to Mathews on the fourth day were widely condemned. Instead of attacking the Sri Lankan captain once his side had slipped to 277 for seven - a lead of only 169, after the loss of three for nine - England fed him runs in an attempt to get at Herath. Throughout a rudderless afternoon, one of England's most depressing in recent times, Cook consistently stationed four men on the fence for the first four balls of an over, before bringing them in, at which point Mathews would go on the offensive: 16 of his eventual 25 fours came from the last two balls of an over. Herath, meanwhile, faced only 82 deliveries in 162 minutes, and Cook inexplicably ignored Ali's off-breaks until Herath had been in for 20 overs, even though he had dismissed Sangakkara and Thirimanne, also left-handers, the previous evening.
When Ali was finally introduced, to sarcastic cheers, Herath was almost lbw, then dropped by Prior from a sweep that ballooned up off the batsman's back pad. While England's seamers bowled poorly, Cook stood at slip like a man directing a disaster movie as the special effects of Sri Lankan runs exploded around him. Plunkett - the only seamer who looked remotely threatening - had dropped Mathews in his follow-through on 87, which would have given him ten wickets in the match after a Test-best five for 64 in the first innings.
At one stage, the careworn Cook briefly left the field, though presumably not to seek advice from Shane Warne, whose habitual criticism of him had prompted his tetchy prematch comment that "something needs to be done". Yet Cook did little to prove Warne wrong. It took Mathews's overeagerness to reach 150 for the eighth-wicket partnership to be broken: from the last ball before tea, he pushed to mid-on, set off for a single, then sent back Herath, who was beaten by Root's direct hit. His contribution to a stand of 149 in 36 overs had been a characterful 48. Mathews fell 11 runs later, chipping a low full toss to midwicket. When England finally began their second innings, only Bradman's 1948 Invincibles had made more - 404 for three - to win a Headingley Test.
England's pursuit began surprisingly well, with Cook and Robson adding 39 in an hour. Then it disintegrated against the honest but lively seam-up of Prasad, who had entered the Test with a bowling average of 59 after replacing Nuwan Kulasekara, and now wreaked havoc by pitching the ball up. Cook, after overhauling Geoff Boycott's tally of 8,114 Test runs, dragged an attempted pull into his stumps, and Ballance went lbw next ball. Robson pushed firmly to second slip, before Bell - whose 100th Test appearance proved more footnote than headline - was bowled. England's wretched day ended when Plunkett, the nightwatchman, unaccountably chipped Herath to cover.
Sri Lanka were vocal as wickets tumbled: Jayawardene had insisted the previous evening that "we've seen under pressure they're not up to it", and warned of further verbals. It was the one blemish on their display, and umpires Billy Bowden - who had an otherwise poor match - and Steve Davis intervened when Mathews rounded at length on Root after lunch. As England's batsmen scrapped for their lives, Root held out for 161 minutes, Prior for 71 - before falling to Prasad, who returned his first Test five-for and the best Test figures by a Sri Lankan seam bowler in England - and Jordan for 72. Even Broad's duck ate up half an hour. But there were still 20.2 overs left when Anderson joined Ali. Having survived 53 balls to help save the 2009 Ashes Test at Cardiff, he would finally succumb here to his 55th.
Anderson it was who, four days earlier, had struck the opening blow of the match after an unchanged England inserted Sri Lanka beneath slate-grey skies - Silva's edge to Prior giving him his 1,000th wicket in all senior cricket. Before a crowd of 11,000, which Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur admitted was "not good enough" to retain Tests at Headingley, Sangakkara then led the way with a charmed-life 79. Broad should have run him out before he had scored; replays showed Plunkett had him caught behind on 16, yet no one appealed; Prior inexplicably shelled him on 27 off Plunkett; and Ali spilled him on 57 at backward point off Jordan. Sangakkara was finally dislodged by an athletic diving catch by Bell at gully: Sri Lanka crashed from 228 for five to 229 for nine, only for the last pair to chip in with 28.
That collapse included a hat-trick from Broad, spread across two overs but unnoticed by the crowd and the bowler himself - probably because Plunkett had removed Prasad in between. Only a belated PA announcement alerted everyone to the achievement. A breathless first day had a curious coda when play was briefly stopped after a spectator threw a small cheese - thought to be a mini Babybel - at Eranga from the White Rose Stand. Rhys Duerdon, of Hull, was fined £150 for a public-order offence.
After Cook fell early on day two, prodding to slip, England's new guard took control. Robson, who admitted he had found his Lord's debut "overwhelming", cut a more composed figure as he added 142 with Ballance. Watched by his parents - "Jungle" Jim (nicknamed because he hails from a remote part of New South Wales) and Rosamunde, born in Nottingham - Robson marked his second Test with a maiden century, celebrating in understated fashion.
The wicket of Bell, caught behind down the leg side late on the second afternoon, sparked a dramatic collapse. Then England bowled too short at the start of Sri Lanka's second innings, when Jordan's early reprieve of Karunaratne at second slip off Anderson would have exposed Sangakkara to the new ball. Instead, he became only the fourth man to record seven successive Test scores of 50 or more, after Everton Weekes, Andy Flower and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Sri Lanka's hero, though, was the magnificent Mathews. The contrast between his match and Cook's was almost as dramatic as Anderson's lastgasp dismissal.
Man of the Match: A. D. Mathews.