England overcame spirited late resistance from the hosts to seal a first 3-0 series sweep in Sri Lanka when the tourists wrapped up a 42-run victory shortly after tea on the fourth day of the third and final test on Monday.
Chasing an improbable 327-run target, Sri Lanka’s last six batsmen combined well to get to within less than 50 runs of what would have been a remarkable triumph after they resumed on 53 for four at the Sinhalese Sports Club.
Kusal Mendis (86) and Roshen Silva 65 set the tone with a dogged 102-run sixth-wicket stand in an exemplary display of defiance spread over 30 overs as Sri Lanka sought to end a disappointing series on a high.
After Mendis was run out, Malinda Pushpakumara 42 not out survived a sickening blow to the helmet to add 58 runs with Suranga Lakmal for the final wicket to give England some jitters before the tourists secured victory in the first over after tea.
“I’m proud of everyone,” England captain Joe Root said. “Brilliant performance from the whole squad, it’s been a real team effort which has made it even sweeter.”
England moved to number two, behind India, in the world test rankings after a victory on foreign soil Root hoped would lead to further success.
“We knew we’re capable of winning in these conditions but to do it the way we have and to perform as consistently as we have is a real improvement for this group of players,” he said.
“It shows the learning and the ability within the squad and hopefully we can use it now as springboard to move forward.”
England looked on course for a routine triumph after half an hour of play when Jack Leach angled one into the leg stump and nightwatchman Lakshan Sandakan could only edge the ball to Ben Stokes at slip to depart for seven.