Andrew Strauss declared England’s dramatic innings-and-14-run win over Sri Lanka as “one of the most extraordinary cricket matches any of us have played in”.
With rain taking time out of all but one of the five days in Cardiff, it looked as though England’s chances of forcing a late win had passed when the sides belatedly took to the field at 3pm UK time.
What followed was one of the most stunning finales in Test history as England declared their first innings after two overs – just long enough for Ian Bell to reach his 13th Test century – with a lead of only 96.
That left a maximum of 51 overs to take all 10 Sri Lanka wickets, a tall order to say the least, but remarkably they needed less than half of them to complete the job.
Chris Tremlett and Graeme Swann took four wickets apiece as the tourists capitulated for 82 in 24.2 overs.
“I think it will go down as one of the most extraordinary cricket matches any of us have played in,” said Strauss, before admitting the weather-affected nature of the first four days had initially left him with an entirely different feeling.
“This morning I was saying this was one of the drabbest matches I’ve ever played and suddenly it changes round so quickly. That is great credit to the guys.”
Strauss was part of the England side that lost to Australia at Adelaide in 2006 despite posting 551 for six in the first innings of the game.
While that dramatic reversal came to mind even in the afterglow of this result, he admitted he could not think of a less likely win in his time.
“There’s not a more remarkable finish I can think of,” he said. “We were very keen to press for a victory but obviously we thought it was going to be a long shot to achieve it.
“I suppose our defeat in Adelaide was similar in a way. It’s one of those situations where the full pressure of Test match cricket can come to bear on a team and you need guys to stand up and get past that.
“We showed quite a lot of ruthlessness in Australia this winter and this was another example.”