Sri Lanka v England: Tourists hold nerve to secure series whitewash

Jack Leach took four wickets and ran out Kusal Mendis to inspire England to victoryThird Test, Colombo (day four)England 336 (Bairstow 110, Stokes 57, Sandakan 5-95) & 230 (Buttler 64, Dilruwan 5-88)Sri Lanka 240 (Karunaratne 83, Dhananjaya 73, Rashid 5-49) & 284 (K Mendis 86, Roshen 65, Leach 4-72, Moeen 4-92)England won by 42 runsScorecardEngland held their nerve to complete a first series whitewash in Sri Lanka with a tense 42-run victory in the third Test in Colombo.Kusal Mendis hit a superb 86 and Roshen Silva made a fine 65 to frustrate the tourists before Jack Leach ran out Kusal to seemingly restore control.Moeen Ali (4-92) struck twice to put England on the brink until a defiant last-wicket stand of 58 from the hosts.But Leach (4-72) snared Suranga Lakmal lbw to bowl out Sri Lanka for 284.England’s 3-0 victory is the first time they have won every Test in a series in Sri Lanka and is only the third time – after India last year and Australia in 2004 – that a touring side have beaten the hosts by that scoreline.Spirited Sri Lanka push nervy England closeSri Lanka resumed on 53-4 and, in contrast to their meek collapse late on day three, showed tremendous defiance and skill in threatening to pull off the highest successful chase at the Sinhalese Sports Ground.Kusal and Roshen capitalised on some poor bowling by England’s spinners in the morning session, remaining largely untroubled despite the pitch providing more turn than in previous days.Where Kusal was more positive in striking eight fours and one six, Roshen was his more watchful foil in rotating the strike to disrupt the bowlers, and both batsmen calmly repelled Ben Stokes’ short and fast barrage that had unsettled the top order the day before.With plan B having failed, Root had little option but to revert to plan A and still Kusal and Roshen resisted, bringing up a superb century stand that was only ended by Leach’s stunning throw.When Niroshan Dickwella fell to Leach and Moeen removed Dilruwan Perera and Roshen in quick succession to leave Sri Lanka 226-9, it looked as though England would have victory wrapped up comfortably before tea.Yet number 11 Malinda Pushpakumara fought back, smacking six fours and a six in a sparkling 42 not out as Lakmal dug in at the other end, the Sri Lanka captain also successfully overturning after being given out lbw.But Leach stuck to his task, finally straightening one past Lakmal’s defence and this time there was no reprieve as England celebrated in exhausted, joyous relief.Leach steps up

Leach’s run out of Kusal Mendis proved critical as England’s bowlers struggledEngland’s spinners failed to exploit favourable conditions throughout the morning, with Adil Rashid falling back into inconsistency and Moeen especially laboured, briefly reverting to the action he struggled with in Australia last winter.Leach failed to find his length but was the best of the trio – finally removing stubborn nightwatchman Lakshan Sandakan for seven as he nicked off to Stokes at first slip.The tourists’ excellent fielding has provided crucial breakthroughs when their bowling has toiled during this series, and did so once again.After tucking Rashid round the corner, Roshen called for a second run as Leach ran in from backward square leg, gathered and hit middle stump with a tremendous throw, leaving Mendis short of his ground at the non-striker’s end.A beaming Leach had bowled well after lunch and was now regularly finding the edge of the bat, getting Dickwella to play back and flicking it off his thigh to Keaton Jennings at short leg for 14.Jennings then claimed his sixth catch of the Test with a fine low take to dismiss Dilruwan for five off a renewed Moeen, who also trapped Roshen lbw, before Leach fittingly finished it off with the 100th wicket to fall to spin in the series.A strong end after a tough startCompleting a 3-0 series win in Sri Lanka marks an impressive reversal for England’s Test team after a torrid start to the year.Having already surrendered the urn to Australia, they were heavily beaten in the fifth Test to lose the Ashes 4-0 and were then bowled out for 58 during a series defeat by New Zealand.Those overseas struggles continued into the summer as they were thrashed by Pakistan in the first home Test of the year at Lord’s, but Root’s side responded by winning the second Test, then secured a 4-1 series victory over world number one side India.A new England has started to take shape this year – Sam Curran has turned several matches with bat and ball at just 20 years old, Jos Buttler and Rashid have proved the merits of their respective recalls, and Root continues to mould this side in his image as they move on from Alastair Cook.Where next?England still have issues to resolve and only three Tests against West Indies and one against Ireland in which to do so before their attempt to regain the Ashes from Australia starts on 1 August 2019.Jennings and Rory Burns have done enough to retain the opening spots but the former has failed to dispel the notion he is vulnerable to pace bowling and both need runs in the Caribbean to cement their places.Questions remain over who is the first-choice spinner. Leach, Moeen and Rashid all have excellent qualities, but all can be inconsistent and England will not pick all three next summer.But England generally have less of those questions than they did coming into this series.

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