Shorn of James Anderson, the leader of their pack, England's bowlers produced one of the most remarkable performances in modern times to win the first Test against Sri Lanka by an innings and 14 runs with a daring smash and grab in Cardiff.
In a match heavily blighted by rain, England managed to dismiss Sri Lanka for 82 in 24.4 overs after declaring their first innings on 496 for five, following Ian Bell's 13th Test century.
If anyone was in any doubt about the mismatch Tillakaratne Dilshan's rebuilt side might provide at this time of year in England, look no further than this thrashing by the river Taff. The principal harbingers of Sri Lanka's capitulation were Chris Tremlett and Graeme Swann, who shared the first eight wickets, before Stuart Broad weighed in to complete Sri Lanka's capitulation.
Tremlett, who struck first with the last ball of his opening over, when he had Tharanga Paranavitana caught at slip by Andrew Strauss, was exceptional in knocking over four of Sri Lanka's top six. Swann, as he does so expertly, then niggled away at the other end, teasing and spinning his way to a quartet of victims, including the prize wicket of Kumar Sangakkara with an edge-finding gem.
It was a quite remarkable denouement to a match that looked to be meandering to a lame draw from Sunday onwards after rain had disrupted all but the second day's play.
The rain was back again until 2pm yesterday and with only 922 paying spectators present, the outlook for much play let alone a positive result was bleak.
There is nothing like a combination of bad weather and an empty ground to take players' eyes of the ball, though, and Sri Lanka were probably thinking of their coach journey up to London when the clouds lifted and Strauss' surprise declaration, after Bell had reached his hundred, had the tourists batting again. Suddenly, they needed their game heads again long after they had drifted elsewhere.
That was a canny move by Strauss, with his team only 96 runs ahead, though quite why he wasted 19 minutes for Bell to reach three figures is unclear.
Not that those minutes were crucial. With a minimum of 55 overs left there was time enough for a twist -- especially on a pitch that had spent hours sweating under wet covers -- but only if England bowled well.
Fortunately, they did, with a marked improvement on their first-innings performance, though even they must have marvelled at the speed of it all after Tremlett's opening two overs had accounted for both openers. But once that happened, the contagion for destruction had been triggered -- a condition this England team know only too well having succumbed to the West Indies for 51 in Jamaica, a little more than two years ago.
Even the Decision Review System, with its harnessing of technology, could not help them, though Dilshan and later Farveez Maharoof tried to use it to reprieve them. DRS is certainly catching out the bluffers, something Dilshan tried after gloving the ball on to his thigh pad from where it popped up obligingly for Tremlett to catch in his follow-through. Hot Spot clearly revealed the contact, as it did when Maharoof edged Swann to Matt Prior soon after.
The shortened day allowed England's bowlers to approach their task positively without Anderson, who will definitely miss the next Test with a strained back and side. Had the sun been out and a full day's play been available, it is doubtful there would have been the same pyrotechnics from the heroic trio. As it was, there will be 922 people claiming that 'they were there' in years to come. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Scoreboard in factfile