Graeme Swann claimed a match haul of 10 wickets as England roared to a series-leveling win over Sri Lanka in the second and final Test yesterday to retain their No. 1 ranking.
Swann followed his four wickets in the first innings with six in the second as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 278 at the stroke of lunch on the fifth day at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo.
England, set a modest target of 94, coasted home by eight wickets despite a brief stutter at 31-2 following the dismissals of skipper Andrew Strauss for no score and Jonathan Trott for five.
Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen carried the tourists home with a brisk third-wicket stand of 66 in 69 balls, amid wild celebrations from about 5,000 traveling England fans at the ground.
Left-hander Cook remained unbeaten on 49 and Pietersen, who hit a century in the first innings, smashed 42 not out from 28 balls, signaling his team’s emphatic victory with a six off Tillakaratne Dilshan.
“We are still No. 1, for a while yet, hopefully,” said Strauss, who has been under pressure for both his leadership skills and his poor form with the bat. “The most important thing was winning the game. We did not want to walk away from Sri Lanka having lost the series. I’m delighted by the way the guys reacted to the challenge.”
“At the end of the day this will look like a reasonably comfortable victory, but we all know how hard we had to work for that. It’s been a tough winter and we’re delighted to come through at the end of it,” he added.
It was England’s first win in five Tests on their Asian sojourn this year after being thrashed 3-0 by Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates and losing the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.
The International Cricket Council confirmed that England and South Africa were level at the top of the Test charts with 116 rating points, but Strauss’ men nudged ahead when the ratings were calculated beyond the decimal point.
Strauss saluted Swann, man-of-the-match Pietersen and seamer Jimmy Anderson.
“Anderson was outstanding on an unresponsive wicket, Swann proved his worth once again and Pietersen showed everyone why he is such a special talent,” the skipper said.
Sri Lanka, ranked sixth, paid the price for not reaching 300 in either innings of the match and will remain without a series win since 2009, when they beat New Zealand at home.
Skipper Mahela Jayawardene, who ended with 354 runs in four innings at an average of 88.50 with two hundreds and a half-century, was declared the man of the series.
“We knew England would come hard at us because good players and good teams always step up to the plate,” Jayawardene said. “We made a few mistakes. It was important to get a big first-innings score, which is always so important in our part of the world. We probably fell 100 runs short.”
Jayawardene paid rich tribute to Swann, saying he was one of the best spinners he had faced.
“We knew going into the series that Anderson and Swann would be the main threats because they can bowl well in any conditions,” he said. “It was a hard-fought series. We made mistakes and we have to learn from that and become more consistent going forward.”