Graeme Swann and Chris Tremlett bowled England to an extraordinary innings-and-14-run victory as Sri Lanka collapsed in a barely believable 24.4 overs on the final day in Cardiff. The pair shared eight wickets before Stuart Broad bounced out the last two batsmen to secure one of more remarkable wins in recent memory considering the amount of time lost to rain. Sri Lanka were shell-shocked and couldn't handle the pressure, losing eight wickets in the final session.
When Andrew Strauss declared two overs into the day, having given Ian Bell chance to reach his hundred - after play was delayed until 3pm by heavy morning rain - the summit of England's ambitions appeared to be taking some psychological points to Lord's on Friday. However, Tremlett removed both openers before tea to set the nerves jangling, and when Mahela Jayawardene became his third at the start of the final session, panic was beginning to set in the Sri Lankan ranks.
Only when they were eight down did the visitors try to erase England's advantage with any haste as Thisara Perera and Ajantha Mendis put bat to ball, but wickets were never far away against a pumped-up bowling attack. It didn't matter that Strauss only had three frontline options, with James Anderson suffering a side strain. Tremlett preyed on the batsmen's insecurities against the short ball, Swann found turn to force frazzled minds into playing loose shots, and then Broad hustled through the final resistance with 26 overs still to play.
The merits of Strauss allowing Bell to reach three figures would have been hotly debated had England run out of time at the end, but his bowlers ensured he didn't have to worry. The door was pushed ajar by Tremlett's new-ball burst, elevated to the role vacated by Anderson and one he'll be reluctant to relinquish. He struck with the last ball of his first over when Tharanga Paranavitana edged a low chance to first slip that was well held by the captain.
Tillakaratne Dilshan is a player who could have quickly erased the deficit and eased the pressure, but he got into a tangle against a shorter delivery from Tremlett and the chance lobbed back to the bowler. Dilshan was given out straight away but he went to the DRS and replays confirmed a glove. Mahela and Kumar Sangakkara survived until tea with Sri Lanka 33 for 2, yet they gave a false sense of security.
Although Tremlett changed ends after the interval, he maintained a probing length which left doubt in the batsman's mind as to whether to play forward to back. Mahela opted to come onto the front foot and Tremlett's extra carry ensured another edge carried comfortably to Strauss. England began to sense something could happen.
Swann then gave another example of why he's the world's best spin bowler. Thilan Samaraweera was caught playing back to one that didn't bounce and dragged onto the stump. Next, from round the wicket, a beautiful piece of bowling lured Sangakkara into an edge and Strauss snaffled his third edge - this time in the unaccustomed position of slip to the spinner.
There was no stopping England or Swann as Farveez Maharoof edged his third ball and again the DRS was fruitless as HotSpot showed a clear edge. However, TV evidence was less clear when Prasanna Jayawardene, the first-innings hero with 112, was given out off a gloved pull. This time it was England who called for the review and although HotSpot wasn't conclusive, Rod Tucker, the third umpire, went on the noise as he had with Sangakkara's first-innings dismissal. The subsequent use of Snicko proved he was right again.
Sri Lanka aided in their own demise, none more so than Rangana Herath who played a horrid sweep at Swann to be caught in front, leaving the visitors 52 for 8. Perera and Mendis quickly worked out the only chance was to get in front of England and the next two overs brought 20 yet, amazingly for a match were 139 overs were lost to rain, there was plenty of time left.
Broad was disappointing in the first innings but when Tremlett was rested he responded with a fierce spell to the lower order. He roughed up Perera who lobbed a chance between three fielders before being brilliantly caught, low down, by Bell at short leg. Two balls later Suranga Lakmal fended another short delivery into the slips. England, four months on from Sydney, were back in victory mode. In contrast, Sri Lanka's dressing room was full of blank faces and this will take some getting over.