A superlative 2nd last ball victory of Sri Lanka against ex-colonial power England. A fitting farewell to Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. The superstars also were part of Sri Lanka's win over India in World T20 in Bangladesh. Bravo and goodbye.
Also grand cricket from Birmingham born Pak-Brit Moeen Ali, who nearly achieved the impossible for England with a maiden Test century. Great company by Jimmy Anderson for a 55 ball, 81 min magnificent zero. Great beard and great expectations from now onwards!!!
Sri Lanka won when they had almost abandoned hope. From the penultimate ball of a gripping final day, Shaminda Eranga found a hostile delivery to bring their first series win in England. James Anderson, who could only fend it to the leg side in self-preservation, dropped to his haunches in despair. Moeen Ali's immense maiden Test century was briefly forgotten, submerged beneath an ecstatic Sri Lankan celebration.
An indomitable backs-to-the-wall display by Moeen had come so close to sparing England: an unbeaten 108, unblemished even, made from 281 balls. England's last five wickets had clung on for all but two balls of the final day. Pride had been salvaged, perhaps a captain had been spared too, but it is Sri Lanka who can celebrate a special moment in their Test history.
Sri Lanka's last pair held out for five balls in the first Test at Lord's. This time the task was much harder for Moeen and Anderson: 20.2 overs. Even in Cardiff, when Anderson and Monty Panesar famously held off Australia in 2009, they only saw out 11.3. This time Anderson summoned a heroic 55-ball nought, all signifying nothing.
Tension slowly seeped into the final day as it only can in Test cricket. The crowd was sparse - Yorkshire had folded its arms in condemnation, convinced like all but the most incorrigibly optimistic that England's abject collapse to 57 for 5, well adrift of a target of 350, had sealed their fate - but a night's sleep had cleared muddled heads and Headingley, treacherous Headingley, not the sort of pitch to turn your back on, behaved like an old softie.
Moeen, a cricketing free spirit, played with such judgment and self-denial that he must have explored parts of himself never visited before. He surely surprised even himself, suppressing the silky ambition of his batting during a strikingly unselfish innings in which his most positive shots were expertly selected. In only his second Test, he made light of his international experience with impassioned advice to England's tail.
Only with nine wickets down did Moeen seek to steal the strike, only now did his timing begin to go awry as the demands weighed upon him. But his concentration was unwavering. His century came with half-an-hour remaining, flicking Nuwan Pradeep off his pads, but it had always felt like an afterthought in an innings where he appeared entirely consumed by England's survival. This was not as much an innings as personal growth before your eyes.
Even in defeat, there should be no doubt who will be the recipient of England's annual Beard of the Year award - and, if that is one of the most frivolous awards around, this time it would have a more serious message. There are times when the wider social impact of a performance in sport must also be recognised even in a match report - and this was one of them.
A sole spectator earlier in the Test who observed, however unthinkingly, that Moeen's beard suggested he should be blowing up buildings was rightly reported to stewards and warned. Muslim cricketers have played for England before, but none had been so visibly proud to be a role model. With every stout-hearted block, Moeen made such comments appear ever more ignorant and, for those who questioned as much, integrated himself - and more importantly his beard - deep into the fabric of the England side.