England won their first series away from home since beating South Africa in January 2016 by sealing a victory in the second Test against Sri Lanka. Joe Root captained the side to a 2-0 lead with the third and final Test starting on Friday 23rd November.
Going into day 5 the result was very much in the balance with Sri Lanka sitting on 226-7, needing just 75 runs to level the series. The home side started well but suffered two wickets in three balls from Moeen Ali that all but ended any hopes of a victory. First, Niroshan Dickwella fell for 35 after edging to first slip where Ben Stokes made a comfortable catch and then two balls later Suranga Lakmal was bowled for a duck.
The final wicket fell as Jack Leach achieved his first Test five-wicket haul. Leach caught and bowled Malinda Pushpakmura and the celebrations from the English side quickly followed. This was their first series win in Sri Lanka since March 2001 and only their second ever. Sri Lanka finished on 243 runs, 57 short of victory.
Talking after the Test captain Joe Root said: “The guys have worked extremely hard here. We said we’re going to play in a certain manner and we’ve backed that up completely throughout the two games. That’s probably the most pleasing thing.”
“We’ve stuck to our guns, been ruthless when we’ve had our opportunities to get ahead in the games and we’ve soaked up pressure well. This team is growing all the time, looking to improve in practice and driving that standard up which is a great position to be in.”
Root stepped up in the second innings making a fantastic 124, his 15th Test century. The Yorkshireman said that he “wants to get to number one in the world” and regardless of the outcome in the third Test England will overtake South Africa to take second place in the world rankings. Only India stands in the way.
With the Cricket World Cup taking place next May in England and Wales, Root and his team will be looking to make the most of the closing Test of this series as well as the tour of the West Indies in the new year. The final Test against Sri Lanka will take place in Colombo and starts at 04:30 on Friday 23rd November.