Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath claimed a match haul of 12 wickets as Sri Lanka condemned top-ranked England to their fourth consecutive Test defeat yesterday in the series opener.
The 34-year-old grabbed six wickets in each innings as the tourists, chasing a stiff target of 340, were bowled out for 264 soon after tea on the fourth day at the Galle International Stadium to lose by 75 runs.
Off-spinner Suraj Randiv lent admirable support with a match haul of six wickets, as Sri Lanka went 1-0 ahead in the short two-match series.
Jonathan Trott kept the tourists afloat with a defiant 112, before the last five wickets fell for just 12 runs in front of 8,000 bitterly disappointed England fans in the southern coastal town.
It was only the second win in 18 Tests for Sri Lanka since the retirement of bowling world-record holder Muttiah Muralitharan in 2010. They lost six, while the rest were drawn.
Trott, who notched his seventh Test century, hit 10 boundaries in his patient 266-ball knock, but he fell when he flicked at a Randiv delivery and was snapped up by a diving Tillakaratne Dilshan at backward short-leg just before tea.
Wicketkeeper Matt Prior helped Trott add 81 for the fifth wicket, before he was dismissed by Herath for 41 as Lahiru Thirimanne clung on to a full-blooded sweep at forward short-leg.
Debutant Samit Patel made 9 before his uppish drive off Herath was caught by Dilshan at short cover.
Tailenders Graeme Swann, Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar fell in the space of five runs to hand Sri Lanka victory with a day to spare.
England, who will slip to No. 2 in the rankings behind South Africa if they lose the series, lost Kevin Pietersen in the day’s third over after just seven runs had been added to the overnight score of 111-2.
Pietersen, on 30, attempted to on-drive spinner Randiv and only managed to spoon an easy catch to Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene at short mid-wicket.
The sloppy dismissal ended a valuable 70-run partnership for the third wicket with Trott after England had been reduced to 48-2 late on Wednesday afternoon.
Accurate Sri Lanka bowling tied down the tourists to just 34 runs from 15 overs in the first hour of play, 22 of them coming from the bat of Trott.
Bell, who top-scored with 52 in the first innings, missed a sweep shot off Herath and was given out LBW by umpire Rod Tucker.
Bell immediately asked for a review, but he did not earn a reprieve from TV umpire Bruce Oxenford and England slipped to 152-4.
England played positively after lunch, scoring 51 runs from 15 overs as Sri Lanka handed Herath the new ball that was claimed as soon as it was due in the 81st over.
The second and final Test will be played at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo starting on Tuesday.