Mahela Jayawardene added another chapter to a memorable tour with a series-sealing century as Sri Lanka overpowered England by eight wickets at Chester-le-Street. Kumar Sangakkara and Upul Tharanga provided the necessary support and a competitive target of 261 was made to seem like a stroll. Ian Bell had been England’s main source of runs, grafting his way to 77, but the bowlers again produced a horrendously wayward display and once Sri Lanka were off to a flyer the result was never in doubt.
Bell, along with jaunty knocks from Jamie Dalrymple and Geraint Jones, had lifted England after an innings that laboured for 40 overs before coming to life as the final 10 brought 89 runs. However, any chance England may have had of keeping the series alive disappeared with a new-ball spell that abandoned all notions of line and length.
The confidence that is surging through the Sri Lankans was evident with the way they started the run chase. Sanath Jayasuriya lashed a series of wide long-hops to the cover and third-man boundary as Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett fluffed their lines in front of a home crowd. Sajid Mahmood’s first ball brought the breakthrough as he charged through after delivering and caught Jayasuriya short – but that was as good as it got for Mahmood.
At The Oval he was caned for 80 in seven overs; here his first three overs were carted for 27 as the ball was sprayed on both sides of the wicket, allowing Tharanga and Jayawardene to help themselves. Andrew Strauss was left in a hopeless position because each time he tried to cover another gap in the field the bowler would be hit somewhere else. When one was pitched in the right place, producing a nick, there was no one in the slips to catch it. The bowlers only had themselves to blame.