On a sunny evening at the Oval, Sri Lanka were left with ample time to knock off the required runs, and Jayasuriya did so in style, with 24 off 17 balls, including a remarkable square cut six. A handsome, and well deserved victory for Sri Lanka, based on some fine batting, and a memorable performance by Muralitharan, a superb exhibition of spin bowling on a wicket that offered very little assistance.
Sri Lanka will look back on a successful tour of England, and have shown by their cricket and the large crowds they have drawn that they richly deserve more than the single test allotted to them. England's thoughts will be on tomorrow when the tour party for Australia will be announced, and this comprehensive defeat will mean that they will travel south with their confidence somewhat shaken.
Any hopes England had of saving the match quickly evaporated when Muralitharan had Hollioake lbw to the first ball after the interval. Replays suggested he may have edged into the pad. Cork came in and took a more enterprising approach, only to give Muralitharan his 200th Test wicket, when he tried to sweep. Kaluwitharana took an excellent catch, making a lot of ground as the ball ballooned up from the back of the bat, then glove. Salisbury unwisely tried to play back to Muralitharan, lasting only 4 balls, as a big off break trapped him back in front of his stumps. Gough showed more determination, and England edged towards the 146 they needed to make Sri Lanka bat again. England decided on a policy of Ramprakash facing Muralitharan, refusing singles, but after 8 consecutive maidens, Ranatunga countered by switching bowlers. Gough looked uncomfortable against Muralitharan but survived. When Ramprakash played Muralitharan to third man for two, England finally were ahead. Muralitharan injured his bowling hand, stopping a fierce cut from Gough, and briefly had to leave the field. With the new ball, the shackles were loosed, both batsmen finding runs easier to come by against the seamers, and Ranatunga soon turned back to the spinners. At tea, England were ahead by just 16, and despite the stubborn resistance of Gough and Ramprakash, still have a long way to go to save this match.
England resumed very much on the defensive, with preservation of wickets being the prime aim. The weather offered no hopes of salvation, the Oval bathed in sunshine. The one boundary of the first hour came thanks to Attapatu who gave up four overthrows. James' long innings (151 balls) ended when, after Muralitharan changed to the Vauxhall End, he edged a bat-pad catch to silly point. James maybe lacks the technique at Test level, but certainly showed character, and likely will be rewarded with the captaincy of the England A side this winter. Ramprakash opened his account with a square cut for four off Muralitharan, and appeared more comfortable than most against him. The critical wicket of Stewart fell to a brilliant piece of fielding, run out by a direct hit by Chandana (substituting for de Silva, off with an ankle injury incurred when he was hit by a drive back to him when bowling). England were still 53 behind with 6 wickets left. Stewart had batted with great patience for two and a half hours. Chancing quick runs at this stage of the match was poor judgement, yet in the next 30 minutes England survived two other near run-outs. Jayasuriya was bowling over the wicket, pitching outside leg, and the English bats used the inelegant, but effective method of using the pads alone to defend. He was getting some turn, and when he forced Crawley to play, he induced an edge to Jayawardene at slip, who put the chance down. Crawley and Ramprakash resisted until 5 minutes before lunch, when Muralitharan drew Crawley forward with a flighted off-break, beat his attempted push, and bowled him. England go into an early lunch 30 runs behind, and facing defeat.