Sibley and Buttler steer England to Sri Lanka Test sweep

GALLE (Agencies): Dom Sibley and Jos Buttler anchored a run chase after a jittery start as England beat Sri Lanka by six wickets Monday in the second Test to sweep the series 2-0.

Sibley and Buttler put on an unbeaten 75-run stand as England, who were struggling at 89-4, got to their target of 164 in an extended final session on the fourth day in Galle. The result gave England a second successive Test whitewash in Sri Lanka after winning all three matches in the island nation in 2018.

“Really proud of how calm we were,” skipper Joe Root said after being named man of the man and series for knocks of 228 and 186 in the first and second Test respectively. “Credit to the bowlers for putting Sri Lanka under pressure. We are on an upward curve as a team and looking to get better.” England were given a deadline to finish after spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess skittled out Sri Lanka for 126 in their second innings.

Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya claimed three wickets that gave Sri Lanka hope and helped him to his Test-best match figures of 10-200. Debutant spinner Ramesh Mendis got the key wicket of skipper Joe Root, who scored 11 after his second successive ton in England’s first innings total of 344, to add to the scare given to the tourists.

Embuldeniya took Zak Crawley for 13 and then ended Jonny Bairstow’s stay after a quickfire 29, putting England’s nerves on edge, but Sibley calmly moved to his third Test half-century. Leach and Sibley took four wickets each to set up England’s win. The hosts started their second innings early in the day with a lead of 37 but it all came to an end in the afternoon session. Number 10 Embuldeniya top-scored with 40, after taking seven wickets with his left-arm spin to end England’s first innings on 344. He was the only batsman to score more than 20 as Sri Lanka collapsed from 29 for one in their second innings.

– Embuldeniya ‘good asset’ –

Embuldeniya put up some resistance with a ninth-wicket stand of 48 with Suranga Lakmal, who made 11 not out, before Root took the final two wickets with his off-spin. “He was outstanding throughout the series, doing all the hard work,” stand-in-skipper Dinesh Chandimal said of his 24-year-old spinner.

“He always comes and asks how to improve, so I’m sure he’ll be a good asset going forward.” Leach’s left-arm spin got Kusal Perera trapped lbw for 14, and off-spinner Bess sent back Oshada Fernando for three in the first session.

First-innings centurion Angelo Mathews was then bowled by Bess for five and Chandimal fell to Leach, with James Anderson taking a superb running catch.

Earlier Dilruwan Perera trapped overnight batsman Leach lbw for one on just the 11th ball of the day after England resumed on 339 for nine in Galle. Leach took a single and number 11 Anderson hit a boundary off Embuldeniya, who returned career-best figures of 7-137 in just his ninth Test, to add five runs to the overnight score.

Anderson played a key part after his best bowling figures of 6-40 in Asia. The 38-year-old quick has 606 Test wickets in 157 matches. Riding on Root’s double ton, England won the opening Test of the resumed series, which started last March but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. England now head to India for a four-Test series starting February 5 in Chennai. The first two Tests will be played to empty stadiums. “With four more Test matches on this tour it’s really important we don’t stand still, keep looking to improve,” Root said.