England overcame some spirited late resistance from the hosts to a seal a first 3-0 series sweep in Sri Lanka when the tourists wrapped up a 42-run victory shortly after tea on the fourth day of the third and final Test on Monday. Chasing an improbable 327-run target, Lanka's last six batsmen combined well to get to within less than 50 runs of what would have been a remarkable triumph after they resumed on 53 for four at the Sinhalese Sports Club.
Kusal Mendis (86) and Roshen Silva (65) set the tone for the hosts with a dogged 102-run sixth-wicket stand in an exemplary display of defiance spread over 30 overs as Sri Lanka sought to end a disappointing series on a high. After Mendis was run out, Malinda Pushpakumara (42 not out) survived a sickening blow to the helmet to raise 58 runs with Suranga Lakmal for the final wicket to give England some jitters before the tourists secured victory in the first over after tea.
England looked on course for a routine triumph after half an hour of play when Jack Leach angled one into the leg stump and nightwatchman Lakshan Sandakan could only edge the ball to Ben Stokes at slip to depart after making seven. The hosts rallied and Mendis brought up his seventh Test 50 as Silva shrugged off occasional discomfort against all-rounder Stokes' awkward bounce to thwart the England attack.
Leach's left-arm spin could not separate the duo but his right-handed throw did, as the Somerset bowler charging in from backward square leg to throw down the stumps at the non-striker's end to end Mendis innings. It was a tragic end to a stellar innings by the right-hander, who hit eight boundaries and a six in an assured knock. Leach (4-72) struck again to dismiss Niroshan Dickwella for 19 with Keaton Jennings enhancing his reputation as an exceptional close-in fielder by taking a smart bat-pad catch at short leg.
Moeen Ali (4-92) then dismissed Dilruwan Perera and Silva but Pushpakumara engineered a spirited counter-attack with stand-in skipper Lakmal, who was the last man out. England triumphed in the series opener in Galle to end a 13-match winless streak in overseas Tests and won in Pallekele to take an unassailable 2-0 lead, ending the side's 17-year wait for a Test series victory in Sri Lanka.
In response to their poor showing, Sri Lanka sacked the entire selection committee on Sunday and replaced them with a new panel headed by former Test player Ashantha de Mel.