England has made Sri Lanka pay for a disastrous and costly second innings collapse, recording an unlikely second Test victory despite the home side’s commanding early-match position.

After a jittery start, Dom Sibley and Jos Buttler anchored a run chase on the fourth day in Galle, putting on an unbeaten 75-run stand to guide the tourists to their target of 164 and secure a six-wicket win, as well as a 2-0 series sweep.

The result gave England a second successive Test whitewash in Sri Lanka after winning all three matches in the island nation in 2018.

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It came just hours after Sri Lanka flopped and lost 8-59 to be eventually skittled for a paltry 126 in its second innings — a far cry from its first innings total of 381, which initially put it in a position of strength.

After England managed 344 in its first innings, Sri Lanka began its second dig with a lead of 37.

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Openers Kusal Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne guided Sri Lanka to 0-19 before English spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess combined for eight wickets to flip the match on its head.

Leach made his left-arm spin count as he got Kusal trapped LBW for 14, while 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.

“I can’t quite believe what I’ve been seeing in the last two hours,” England great Sir Alastair Cook said on BBC’s Test Match Special.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan wrote on Twitter: “Sri Lanka are giving an exhibition in how to gift an opposing team a wonderful chance of winning a Test match … Absolutely awful display of batting this morning.”

Sri Lanka are giving an exhibition in how to gift an opposing team a wonderful chance of winning a Test match …. Absolutely awful display of batting this morning …. !!! #SLvENG #OnOn

— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) January 25, 2021

Only No. 10 Lasith Embuldeniya provides some resistance, top-scoring with 40 off just 37 balls. He was the only Sri Lankan batsman to score higher than 20.

Embuldeniya combined with Suranga Lakmal for a ninth-wicket stand of 48, before skipper Joe Root took the final two wickets with his off-spin.

Embuldeniya was Sri Lanka’s shining light with the ball during the game, taking 7-137 in England’s first innings then 3-73 in the second to finish with his first 10-wicket haul in his ninth Test.

Root was crucial in England’s fightback with the bat earlier in the Test, scoring 186 in his side’s first innings total of 344.

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“As a batting unit, we made the same mistakes we made in the first Test on the first day,” Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal said post-game.

“There’s no excuses for the batsmen, we have to learn to bat like Root, he was outstanding.” “We need to be patient. We played well in patches but it’s not good enough against a team like England. We have to do well every day.”

England now heads to India for a four-Test series starting February 5 in Chennai. The first two Tests will be played to empty stadiums.

— with AFP

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