Second Test, Edgbaston (day four):
England 295 & 81-4 bt Sri Lanka 141 & 231 by 6 wkts
Flintoff hit the winning runs after Cook's unbeaten 34
England captured the second Test with a six-wicket success against Sri Lanka on the fourth afternoon at Edgbaston.
Muttiah Muralitharan trapped Marcus Trescothick for a duck and took 4-29, but Alastair Cook struck an unbeaten 34 to guide them past their target of 78.
Sri Lanka had resumed 40 ahead and it took England 55 minutes to break through but they wrapped up the innings for 231 with Liam Plunkett taking 3-17.
Opener Michael Vandort was last out for a tough 105, his second Test century.
After failing to clinch victory from a dominant position at Lord's, it was important for England to take a 1-0 lead going into the final match of the series, beginning at Trent Bridge on Friday.
They set off in pursuit of their modest target with Andrew Strauss hitting fluent drives to the boundary off Lasith Malinga and Chaminda Vaas.
After lunch, though, there was controversy over the dismissal of Strauss, who looked far from happy with Aleem Dar's decision to give him out caught at slip for 16
Replays suggested that he had made no contact with his sweep and the ball had ballooned merely off the pad.
With 40 still required, first innings hero Kevin Pietersen lashed Vaas to midwicket where skipper Mahela Jayawardene took an astonishing catch, only for a no-ball to be called.
Cook mis-timed a cut fractionally short of point as the noise levels from the excitable Sri Lankan fielders intensified.
Malinga was called upon for a final effort, but the opening delivery of his new spell was a short leg-side no-ball and helped on its way to the fine-leg fence by Pietersen, a sequence that was repeated in the same over.
Pietersen did not last much longer, however, beaten all ends up by a skidding delivery from Murali that trapped him bang in front for 13.
But Cook played in sensible fashion throughout, waiting for the bad ball, and cut his third boundary to take the runs required to 10.
They bowled really good areas but our batting lacked the fighting spirit
Paul Collingwood, although beaten by a searing delivery from Malinga when the erratic paceman finally put the ball in the right area, seemed likely to be there at the finish.
He edged behind, though, to give Muralitharan his 15th 10-wicket match haul.
To the delight of the crowd, that brought Flintoff to the crease with five runs needed and he hit the winning runs by driving Murali down the ground for four.
On a bright morning in Birmingham, skipper Flintoff had opened the bowling, before handing the new ball to Matthew Hoggard at the first opportunity.
Hoggard produced a stunning opening over with the new cherry, swinging four deliveries in to rap Vandort on the pads and cutting another back through the gate.
He was unable to possess the same threat to the right-handed Farveez Maharoof, however.
Vandort's battling century was ultimately fruitless
Having taken 31 balls and 40 minutes to get off the mark, Maharoof clipped the first boundary of the morning 41 minutes in.
With Hoggard failing to find the prodigious swing of his first over, Flintoff replaced him and produced the desired effect with his second ball.
A brutal lifting delivery rose up steeply at Maharoof and gave the England captain the simplest of return catches.
Plunkett did not generate a great deal of movement with the new ball.
But he justified the decision to give him first use of it when extra pace and bounce saw Chaminda Vaas slash to gully and Nuwan Kulasekara fend to the same area in successive deliveries.
Flintoff took no time to remove Lasith Malinga, caught by Andrew Strauss at second slip.
And Plunkett, who missed Saturday's play because of a shoulder niggle, was celebrating match figures of 6-60 when he had Vandort caught behind.
The tall left-hander's watchful 105 had lasted 303 balls but it was ultimately a fruitless endeavour.