PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka (Reuters) – Off-spinner Moeen Ali struck twice in three deliveries as England completed a 57-run victory in the second test against Sri Lanka on the final day on Sunday to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who had taken four wickets on Saturday, picked up the final Sri Lanka scalp to complete a maiden five-wicket haul in his third test with the hosts all out for 243.
Sri Lanka resumed on 226 for seven, needing 75 for victory, and kept the England spinners at bay for 15 minutes before Moeen dismissed Niroshan Dickwella, who was caught at slip by Ben Stokes for 35.
The off-spinner then sent back Sri Lanka’s stand-in captain Suranga Lakmal for a duck two deliveries later. Moeen finished with 4-72 while Leach had figures of 5-83.
Malinda Pushpakumara spooned a catch straight back to Leach as England completed their first away series win in tests since beating South Africa at the beginning of 2016.
It was also England’s first series win in Asia since the 2012 triumph in India and their first in Sri Lanka since 2001.
“It was a brilliant test match. We were very good for the whole game. At times we were under pressure and we responded really well to that,” England captain Joe Root said at the post-match presentation. “(I) couldn’t be more proud of the guys.”
Root was named player of the match for his brilliant 124 in the second innings that helped his team post a daunting target to chase.
Sri Lanka batted well in both innings but Sam Curran’s stylish 64 in the first innings and Root’s astounding knock under pressure in the second made the difference for England.
“Sri Lanka played brilliantly in both innings. At times we lost clusters of wickets but we stayed very calm and managed to find ways to get back in the game and get the control back in our favour,” Root added.
“We said we are going to come out here and play bold cricket, we were quite courageous at times and everyone’s really bought into that. We are seeing the rewards now.
“We have to keep looking to improve. We have seen this team grow in the last six-eight months. We are not the finished article, we want to get to number one at some point.
“We have to be consistent to do that, in all parts of the world and on different surfaces.”
With the Pallekele pitch assisting the slow bowlers, spinners completely dominated the match, taking 38 wickets.
Lakmal was the only seamer to pick up a wicket while the other was a run out.
It was also the first time since 1973 in Karachi that no seamer took a wicket in a test for England.
The third and final test of the series will start on Friday in Colombo.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Amlan Chakraborty / Ian Ransom)