At Chester-le-Street, May 27-30. England won by nine wickets. England 4pts. Toss: England.
After taking four outstanding catches on day one, Sri Lanka returned next morning full of pep. Then, like an untied balloon, they deflated at an alarming rate and flew around haphazardly, making rude noises. The pitch was fair, but the Sri Lankans could take the match only as far as the fourth day, when Cook finally moved past 10,000 Test runs and England moved 2-0 up with one to play. On three of those days, Sri Lanka had competed;
on the second, their cricket was abysmal enough to define their series.
It was in the rotation of Moeen Ali's velvet wrists that the match turned for England, his second-morning reprieve signalling the moment Sri Lanka let the Test slip. He had 36 when Pradeep Fernando drew a thick edge in the third over - but the ball burst through Karunaratne's fingers at a wide second slip. Next over, wicketkeeper Chandimal missed a straightforward chance - Woakes, on eight, edging Eranga. Sri Lanka had entered freefall.
Like those for whom a near-death experience spurs a fearless attitude, England's overnight batsmen did not merely progress from 310 for six - they surged. And the threat Sri Lanka posed in the early overs didn't simply go flat - it flatlined. Even when boundaries were not forthcoming, the outfield became a wellspring of runs, the bowlers tiring, Mathews's captaincy worsening. Such mis-hits as there were fell into gaps where catchers had stood in the early morning.
As Ali flitted about the crease, skipping forward, slinking back, even the poise of Herath, their most experienced bowler, was upset. His second ball of the day was thunked over mid-off by Ali, who passed 50; in Herath's next over, Ali swatted him in front of point, then scorched him through the covers. Sri Lanka did manage the wickets of Woakes - to end a seventh-wicket stand worth 92 - and Broad in quick succession before lunch. But, for England, these proved minor hiccups. After the break, Ali manoeuvred Sri Lanka into submission.
Mathews's tactics betrayed a startling lack of intent. There were catchers for Finn, but vast spaces for Ali. The ground-fielding nosedived: balls were fumbled, missed completely and, in some cases, escorted gallantly to the boundary. Ali began the afternoon session on 85, and needed only 17 deliveries to move to his second Test hundred, both against Sri Lanka. On 105, he was dropped again, this time by Siriwardene at deep midwicket off
Eranga (whose tour was about to get worse: the day after the game, he was reported for a suspect action). Ali crashed the next two balls either side of square in an over costing 13. Mathews cut a beleaguered figure, regularly declining to bring the field in for the last two balls of the over, which allowed Ali to retain the strike with minimal difficulty. Towards the end of the innings, with Sri Lanka firing it down the leg side to delay the declaration, Herath wangled a top-edge out of an ambitious Finn, and took the catch himself. It was his 300th Test wicket. Only two other Sri Lankans - Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas - had beaten him to it.
The declaration eventually came at 498 for nine, with Ali unbeaten on 155, yet Sri Lanka's day soon deteriorated further. At Headingley, they had played as if given only rough coordinates for the off stump. The Chester-le-Street pitch was friendlier, but once more they found themselves poking, wafting and prodding against Anderson, Broad and Woakes, in for the injured Ben Stokes. Balls continued to seek out edges, then fielders: in the 40 overs before stumps, seven catches went to keeper or cordon. Amid the wreckage came Mathews's tour nadir: having been ruled caught behind on three off the energetic Woakes, he asked for a review, only for Hot Spot and Snicko to confirm his downfall. Of the frontline quicks, only an off-rhythm Finn went wicketless.
Sri Lanka had begun the day with realistic hopes of keeping England's first innings to 350. They ended it at 91 for eight - 407 adrift. Only ten more runs were added next morning, as Broad finished with four for 40. In three successive innings, Sri Lanka had totalled 311. That second day was more calamitous for having followed three sessions of competent English batting. While Hales shelved aggression in his bid to crack Test cricket, Cook had
been well caught for 15 by a tumbling second slip off Lakmal, leaving him on 9,995 Test runs; only Brian Lara (out twice on 9,993 against England in 2004), and Mahela Jayawardene (run out on 9,999 at Centurion in 2011-12) had previously succumbed in the nervous 9,990s. Shortly before lunch, Compton hooked Pradeep Fernando towards long leg, where Lakmal appeared to dart in several directions at once, then threw his hands up
as if in supplication, found the ball lodged within them, and - sliding backwards - came to a halt inches from the boundary.
Root brought dynamism, apparently picking Sri Lanka's pockets rather than scoring runs. While Hales lumbered along, Root filled his sack with ones and twos to unconventional parts of the ground. Every time Mathews attempted to tighten the net around him, Root slipped through. He ventured boundaries only occasionally, hitting five in his 119-ball 80.
It took two more outstanding catches for Sri Lanka to regain their footing on the first day. Hales fell in the eighties to a left-arm spinner for the second time in the series, when his cut off Siriwardene was snaffled by a diving Mathews at slip. Later, Thirimanne climbed to his right at short cover to cling on to Vince's uppish drive. This alertness would desert them on day two, but return on days three and four.
Also relocated while following on - the first time Sri Lanka had done so in successive Tests since their tour of India in 1993-94 - was the elusive off stump. As England's quicks came at him again on the third morning, Silva left the ball decisively, defended resolutely, and leaned confidently into sumptuous drives. He scored 60, while others got starts.When the pitch eased further, Mathews made bruising advances against spin: in a combative 80, he hit six fours and a six off Ali, in all taking 46 runs from the 46 balls he faced against him. But it was Chandimal who played Sri Lanka's most consequential innings, and spurred the tail to defiance for the first time in the series.
He hunkered down against the seamers early in his innings, before unfurling his offkilter attacking strokes, mainly against Ali. The bowlers, who had delivered more than 95 consecutive overs when Chandimal arrived, were soon visibly tiring. He moved past 50 from his 95th delivery, had an inside edge badly dropped by Bairstow off Anderson on 69, and completed his sixth Test hundred, and first outside Asia, from his 172nd; it was also
his fourth in nine innings from No. 6.
En route, he added 92 for the sixth wicket with Siriwardene, then a heartening 116 for the seventh with Herath, whose 61 bristled with characteristic short-arm pulls and booming sweeps. By the time he provided Anderson with his 450th Test wicket, Sri Lanka had crept into a 33-run lead. But thoughts of a miracle were disrupted by Anderson, who completed his 21st five-wicket haul: he conceded only 58 runs from 27 overs, and looked a class above his colleagues.
England needed 79 for victory, and - the loss of Hales aside - there were no jitters. The only question was whether Cook could become the first England batsman to tick off 10,000. Typically, the milestone arrived not from anything imperious, but from a run-ofthe-mill whip off the pads, which trickled over the rope at midwicket. Of the 12 batsmen to reach five figures, Cook - at 31 years 157 days - was the youngest, beating Sachin
Tendulkar by 169 days. And, in the course of his unbeaten 47, he overtook Mike Atherton (3,815) as the leading Test run-scorer among England captains. A banner was unfurled for him in the stands, which were disappointingly empty. Two years after the trauma of losing to Sri Lanka at Headingley, England had sailed to a series victory with time to spare.
Man of the Match: J. M. Anderson.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando