England win series after Sri Lanka collapse on day four of second Test
Sri Lanka crumbled to 126 all out in second innings before Dom Sibley (56no) and Jos Buttler (46no) guide England to a six-wicket win in the second Test; tourists take the series 2-0; Lasith Embuldeniya's 10 wickets in the match come in vain
Last Updated: 25/01/21 4:17pm
Dom Sibley scored a battling half-century to take England to a six-wicket win in the second Test after Sri Lanka collapsed to 126 all out.
The England opener had made just six runs in three previous innings in the series but made the most of some good fortune, surviving three tight lbw reviews on umpire's call, and, alongside Jos Buttler (46no) helped the tourists seal a 2-0 series win late on the fourth evening.
England were set 164 to win on a deteriorating pitch after the hosts succumbed to Jack Leach (4-59), Dom Bess (4-49) and Joe Root (2-0) in alarming fashion as all 10 wickets fell to spin either side of lunch.
Only left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya provided any resistance for Sri Lanka, hitting a career-best 40 before taking three second-innings wickets to end with match-figures of 10-210, as the home side threw away their first-innings advantage.
Sri Lanka did briefly give themselves hope of defending a modest target when Root (11) and Dan Lawrence (2) fell in quick succession to leave England 89-4, but an unbroken stand of 75 between Sibley (56no) and Buttler saw the visitors to a series sweep and fifth away win in succession.
The day had begun with England still in their first innings but they added just five runs to their overnight total before Leach was the last man out, lbw to Dilruwan Perera.
England's 344 left them 37 behind on first-innings but no sooner had Sri Lanka's bowlers earned that potentially vital advantage, their batsmen threw it away with another calamitous display.
Mickey Arthur's side were rolled over for 135 on day one of the first Test and showed similar failings on day four of the second, gifting England's spinners wickets time and again.
The seamers combined to take all 10 wickets in the first innings but Root quickly turned to spin in the second with Leach into the attack in the sixth over trapping left-hander Kusal Perera (14) lbw from around the wicket with his second ball.
Bess then removed Oshada Fernando (3) with a ball that turned sharply from a good line outside off to find the inside edge onto pad, allowing Zak Crawley to take the first of his three catches at short leg.
His second was superb as the ball came quickly off the face of Lahiru Thirimanne's (13) bat but he held on to give Leach his second and, in the next over, Bess matched him as he bowled first-innings centurion Angelo Mathews (5) on the sweep.
It was soon three wickets in three overs as another vastly experienced batsman departed, Dinesh Chandimal (9) smashing two boundaries off Leach before sending the ball spiralling over mid-on; Jimmy Anderson went running back and took a brilliant catch as the ball dropped over his shoulder from a great height to leave Sri Lanka's innings in tatters at 47-5.
The spinners were going back-and-forth with the wickets and it was Bess' turn next, Niroshan Dickwella (7) drilling the ball to Lawrence at short extra cover to make it 66-6.
Ramesh Mendis and Dilruwan were both given lives by Root at slip before lunch but neither proved costly as the duo departed quickly after the interval, Dilruwan flicking Bess into the hands of Crawley for another excellent catch before Mendis edged Leach into his boot allowing Buttler, who fell in the same manner on day three, to nip in and complete the catch.
Embuldeniya, who had a previous best of 26 in first-class cricket, came in with Sri Lanka 78-8 and leading by only 115 and took the attack to England, clubbing six fours and a maximum in a stand of 48 with Suranga Lakmal before Root brought himself on and had the left-hander caught by Jonny Bairstow at slip.
Asitha Fernando dragged the next ball onto his stumps to end the innings inside 36 overs.
The fear for England was that Embuldeniya's knock may have left them chasing a few too many on a dry and dusty pitch that was only getting worse for batting.
However, Crawley (13) and Sibley came out and showed real purpose, both in defence and attack, and before Embuldeniya got a ball to explode off the surface and take Crawley's edge, Fernando holding onto it at gully, there had been little to concern them.
With Crawley gone, Bairstow came in and a slog-sweep for six off Mendis early in his innings was just one in a series of positive sweep shots to help England to 46-1 at tea.
Sri Lanka were still not beaten, though, and Embuldeniya's skill became apparent again as he pushed through a quicker ball to get Bairstow lbw as the England man played back.
Root, coming off a magnificent 186 in the first innings and 228 in the first Test, looked in good touch again but just after skipping down the pitch to Mendis and caressing the ball through mid-off for four to take England past the halfway mark of the chase, he was gone, dragging the ball onto leg stump with his glove as he shaped for another sweep.
Embuldeniya had Lawrence caught behind via his pad to complete his 10-wicket haul for the match, reward for his extensive efforts throughout the match and the series.
That was as good as it got for Sri Lanka, though, as Sibley, having twice survived the closest of lbw calls on review in the two overs before tea, was joined by Buttler and the pair gradually went about knocking off the required runs.
Sri Lanka's generosity in keeping the field back and allowing easy singles, sped up the process but while Sibley was grinding on, Buttler, having been dropped on 18 by Mendis, was soon timing the ball well enough that it made little difference.
Sibley survived a third lbw review, umpire's call again as he played back to Dilruwan, before reaching his third Test fifty from 139 balls and it was left to the England opener to finish a defiant innings by hitting the winnings runs.
England can now look ahead to a four-Test series in India starting next month, with Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Rory Burns returning to the squad to face Virat Kohli's star-studded side.