Summary: England completed an almost perfect tour of Sri Lanka with an unexpected whitewash in the Test series.

England secured their first ever 3-0 whitewash in a Test series in Asia with a 42-run win in Colombo, completing one of the most triumphant tours of modern times.

Not since the 2-1 win in South Africa in 2016 had England won away at all, with only a 1-1 draw in Bangladesh since then to set against 4-0 losses in India and Australia and a 1-0 defeat in New Zealand.

For these reasons, few went into the series with high expectations. True, fans on the tour could enjoy the beauty of the lush island, its warmth and beaches, fascinating culture and food. But to win 3-0? The only visiting teams to do that in Sri Lanka were India in 2017, who are imperious in subcontinental conditions, and the all-conquering Australians in 2004. Both those sides did so as the best team in the world. England are now up to number two and will now have every reason to believe they can rise higher.

The victory was a complete team effort. Keaton Jennings, so often in the firing line as he struggled in seamer-friendly conditions last summer, made a brilliant unbeaten 146 in Galle and was outstanding at short leg. Newcomer Rory Burns made a crucial half century in Pallekelle. But the biggest star of all was Ben Foakes.

Drafted into the side in Galle after Jonny Bairstow was injured playing football, Foakes made a brilliant century on debut on Galle and followed it up with a half century as England's tail crucially wagged in Pallekelle. He finished with 277 runs at an average of 69.25. In addition, his glovework was superb and he was deservedly named man of the series.

Bairstow was left disappointed to have relinquished his role behind the stumps, but bounced back in style when he returned to the side in Colombo, making 110 at number three, the first century by an Englishman in that position all year. This was a true squad effort.

England's batting was not prolific, but the tactics were clear. In the first two Tests, where the ball bounced less, the sweep and reverse sweep were used as the go-to shots. Root's brilliant 124 in Pallekelle and several fine knocks by Jos Buttler were prime examples of how this could keep the scoreboard moving and get England into winning positions.

Recent Asian tours have exposed England's relative weakness in the spin department since the retirement of Graeme Swann, but Moeen Ali, Jack Leach and Adil Rashid gave England a trio of options and bowled more than well enough in a series more dominated by spin than any other in Test history; no less than 100 wickets fell to slow bowlers, a record for a three-Test series.  

In that context, Ben Stokes produced some key displays, following his doughty batting with some fierce displays of pace bowling in unfriendly conditions.

Apart from all this, England's fielding was a cut above Sri Lanka's, with Leach's brilliant throw to run out Kusal Mendis on the final day in Colombo epitomising some brilliant displays in the stifling heat.

In winning this series, and doing so in such emphatic style, England have demonstrated they are so much more than the side that wins with a Duke ball on green-tinged pitches. If they can produce similar excellence in the Caribbean after Christmas, they will approach next summer's Ashes brimming with confidence and with their eyes on the prize of becoming the number one Test team.



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