Last man James Anderson’s 55-ball vigil without scoring ended when he fended off the second last ball of the match, a nasty short-pitched delivery from Shaminda Eranga, to be caught in the close cordon by Rangana Herath, leaving the dogged Moeen Ali unbeaten with a gallant century (108, 17 fours).
Playing in only his second Test, Moeen spent some six hours consuming 281 balls and in hindsight his calculated risk to allow Anderson to play out the final over proved catastrophic for England.
It was clear when England resumed their second innings at 57 for five on the fifth and final day Tuesday that the 350-run victory target was beyond their reach.
England sensibly tried to bat out the day and their last three wickets almost seen it through, but for that one folly of Anderson. They were also helped to an extent by the fickle Yorkshire weather when rain forced an early lunch. Later in the afternoon, fading light forced Sri Lankans to use the spin of Mahela Jayawardene.
Dhammika Prasad starred with the ball for the victorious visitors, adding Matt Prior’s wicket to his fourth day with four wickets.
It was Moeen all the way, for a free-stroking batsman batted on and on not even trying to get to his hundred when Nos. 10 and 11 joined him. England had three wickets to play out the last session and they nearly drew the match.
Where Sri Lanka succeeded in a similar situation in the first Test, England failed, but narrowly.
Skipper Agelo Mathews was named the Man of the Match for his match-winning 160 in the second innings and four wickets in England’s first innings.
Sri Lanka: 257 (Dimuth Karunaratne 28, Kumar Sangakkara 79, Mahela Jayawardene 22,Angelo Mathews 26, Dinesh Chandimal 45; James Anderson 2/49, Stuart Broad 3/46, Liam Plunkett 5/64) and 457 (Karunaratne 45, Sangakkara 55, Jayawardene 79, Mathews 160, Rangana Herath 48, Shaminda Eranga 20; Anderson 3/91, Plunkett 4/112, Moeen Ali 2/74).
England 365 (Sam Robson 127, Gary Balance 74, Ian Bell 64, Matt Prior not out 27, Shaminda Eranga 4/93, Mathews 4/44) and 249 (Robson 24, Joe Root 31, Moeen Ali 108 not out, Chris Jordan 21, Herath 3/59, Dhamika Prasad 5/50).