ENGLAND captain Andrew Strauss admitted his side’s miraculous victory over Sri Lanka “beggared belief” after the tourists imploded on the final day of the first Test in Cardiff.
There was little indication of England’s desire to force a win when Strauss showed more than a hint compassion by allowing Ian Bell, 98 not out overnight, to complete his 13th Test century once play got underway just after 3.00pm.
England declared immediately on 496 for five, 96 in front, leaving Sri Lanka the seemingly straightforward task of batting out the remaining 50 odd overs on a benign pitch.
But a superb opening burst from Chris Tremlett got rid of Tharanga Paranavitana and Tillakaratne Dilshan before tea and after the interval England picked up the remaining eight wickets in little under an hour to win by an innings and 14 runs.
“We were not expecting this at the start of the day, it beggars belief to a certain extent,” said Strauss. “We were not expecting a huge amount, although we knew it was an awkward time for them to bat.
“It was one of those situations as a batsman you have nothing to gain and everything to lose. There was some really high-quality bowling at both ends which meant we were able to take wickets at both ends.”
England’s victory was made all the remarkable when you consider over 15 hours of play were lost during the Test because of wet conditions, and that they managed to bowl Sri Lanka out for 82 in just 24.5 overs without the linchpin of their attack, James Anderson, missing because of a grade one side strain which could keep him out of the second Test which starts on Friday at Lord’s.
Tremlett and off-spinner Graeme Swann ended with four wickets each, leaving Stuart Broad (right) to mop up the tail-enders with a couple of ferocious bouncers.
“I’m proud of the way we approached things this afternoon,” said Strauss.
“We hit them hard with the new ball, got the early wickets and built more momentum as the innings went on.
“For Broad and Tremlett to bowl with ferocity was a great effort. The general feeling of intensity was excellent too.”
Strauss’ opposite number Dilshan admitted Sri Lanka’s defeat was inexplicable.
“I can’t believe we got out in just 25 overs with such a good batting line-up like we have. We lost the match because we batted really badly,” said the Sri Lanka skipper. “I cannot explain what happened here. We need to regroup as soon as possible.”