England v Sri Lanka report: England lose incredible Test on penultimate ball of the series

Sri Lanka 257 & 457 England 365 & 249 : Tourists win second Test by 100 runs and with it take the series

Headingley

The defiance was belated but magnificent. Yet with the match in its last breath, after a long day of resolve marshalled by a vintage innings from Moeen Ali that combined restraint and elegance, England succumbed to Sri Lanka.

There was only one ball left of the second Test when Jimmy Anderson fended a bouncer from Shaminda Eranga in the air to leg gully. The tourists had won by 100 runs. The last-wicket pair had repelled the tourists for 121 balls at the end of a final day when England had shown abundant reserves of purpose and resolve.

Perhaps Sri Lanka deserved this victory in the match and the series because they had shown such perseverance themselves in overturning a first-innings deficit of 108. But it was desperately disappointing for England, who must have thought that they had done enough to manage one of the greatest escapes.

Nobody more deserved to walk off the ground with a draw than Moeen, whose rearguard action in scoring 108 not out was a model of its kind. It will take its place in the realm of noble acts of resistance and merited the reward it did not quite obtain. He was calm and unruffled over six and a half hour and 281 balls. The only thing that might have flapped all day was his beard.

England began proceedings at 57 for 5 without, it seemed, the remotest chance of escaping the ignominy of their first home Test series defeat to Sri Lanka. But they seized the opportunity to show that they are made of sterner stuff than it had appeared as they were allowing this Test to be stolen from their clutches after they had dominated its early stages.

Sri Lanka might rue a pitch that did not wear as it might have done but England’s purposefulness in the face of adversity was admirable. The match turned ugly in the afternoon when Sri Lanka’s strident sledging brought censure from the umpires. They were particularly bellicose in the direction of Joe Root, who responded with an angelic smile but must have rubbed the tourists up the wrong way somewhere along the line. Moeen stood serenely aloof from it all as if he were doing some important research in a library.

That it all came down to the last over was largely due to him. But Moeen could not have done it without his partners, especially Anderson. When the ninth wicket fell after England had made a decent show of refusing to buckle, it seemed that they must lose. But when the  last over arrived it seemed they must save match and series.

Anderson negotiated the first four balls with the studious grit and determination he had shown since arriving at the crease 80 minutes earlier.  But the fifth ball of the over from Eranga was a well-directed bouncer aimed at the throat, the most effective of its kind. Anderson instinctively raised his bat and turned his back. The ball looped to Rangana Herath about five yards from the bat.

Anderson could hardly grasp what had happened. He slumped to his knees while the Sri Lankans cavorted in a group. Moeen came down, for all the world as if he had played 102 Test matches rather than two, and consoled Anderson.

He had faced the first ball of day and if he had somehow managed to contrive to face the last England might have survived. But how England fought, how Sri Lanka had to strive for what had seemed a formality.

Root kept Moeen company throughout the morning. Lunch was taken because of a heavy rain shower which did not reduce the number of overs available. The breakthrough came in the 30th over of the day when Root was squared up by a ball from Nuwan Pradeep that straightened late and went low to gully.

Moeen merely dug in again, leaving outside off. His only false shot had come early in the piece when he flirted dangerously outside the off stump. After that he constantly left well alone. Sri Lanka gave up trying to ruffle him. He was not listening.

There was controversy when Matt Prior was given out caught at short leg unable to deal with a bouncer. It might have been a no-ball – replays were inconclusive and the benefit of the doubt went to the bowler. If Prior was understandably furious, it was probably the right decision.

Chris Jordan lived precariously at times but just when it seemed he was settled he was undone by the wiles of Herath. The point in the day had come when Herath, Sri Lanka’s spinner, needed a wicket. Soon he had another when Stuart Broad was also lbw propping forward.

That seemed to be that. Even when bad light forced Sri Lanka to bowl spin from  both ends or risk play being suspended, there seemed no way for England to escape their predicament. No side had ever gone into the last day of a Test match five wickets down and avoided defeat.

But the overs went by. Anderson was stoic, Moeen declined to panic. He took one end, Anderson took the other and when pace came back from one end he took that too. On his way to an epic maiden hundred Moeen declined any number of singles but at last he nudged a leg-side off his hips which went for four.

There can have been few more determinedly elegant pieces of resistance of any kind. But this was so early in his international career that it almost defied the imagination. Sri Lanka grew increasingly worried. They were willing to try anything. Orchestrated largely by Mahela Jayawardene in the field, Angelo Mathews seemed the captain in name only. But Mathews must have made the call to replace Herath’s spin for the final over.

They packed the leg-side field. It was obvious that Anderson would have to repel short stuff. He played straight and carefully. But then came the ball with his name on it. And there was nothing he or England could do.

Highlights of the day

Shot

The four Moeen Ali clipped off his hips to bring up his valiant century was deserved for his patience alone.

Ball

Debate will continue to rage about whether the delivery which accounted for Matt Prior was a no-ball. The doubt rightly went to the bowler Dhammika Prasad and overlooks what a clever piece of work it was.

Moment 

The penultimate ball of the day and the match. England seemed to be there but a bumper from Shaminda Eranga was mercilessly directed. Jimmy Anderson could only send it to gully. The series was Sri Lanka’s.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker