The seamer had Kumar Sangakkara well caught by Ian Bell from the last ball of his 12th over, then returned to snare Dinesh Chandimal and Shaminda Eranga at the start of his next visit, a key contribution as the tourists were dismissed for 257.
England, who had celebrated Liam Plunkett’s dismissal of Dhammika Prasad in between Broad overs, did not appear to realise that he was on the cusp of making history and left the field unchanged for the hat-trick ball.
Even the crowd appeared to have lost track of the moment, reacting with an audible sigh of disappointment to what they had wrongly assumed to be the hat-trick ball following Eranga’s departure.
But, while the news filtered through the ground, Broad was one of the last men to become aware.
“I had no idea,” he said at the tea break. “I was listening to the guy that came on the tannoy there and I was thinking ‘why is he mentioning the last ball of the over before?’, and it clicked that that might be a hat-trick.’’
Broad, who first took three in three against India at Trent Bridge in 2011, is just the fourth bowler in history to do so twice following Hugh Trumble, Jimmy Matthews and Wasim Akram.
But his was not even the stand-out performance of the innings. That honour went to Liam Plunkett, who returned five for 64 on his second Test back after a seven-year absence.
The paceman bowled with genuine hostility on his way to personal best Test figures and fully justified the selection panel’s continued faith after last week’s draw at Lord’s.
“As soon as I played last week I felt part of it again, from the first net session,” he said after England closed on 36 for nought.
“This was more for me. I wanted to perform at Test level and picking up five feels like I’ve done that. I feel like it’s just the start. I feel confident and when you’re a bit younger maybe you don’t.
“I backed myself.”
Asked who had won the battle for the match ball – him for his maiden five-for or Broad for his rare feat – Plunkett showed a wide grin.
“I’ve got it but I’ll cut a bit of the seam off for Stuart,” he said. “I didn’t ask him, I just took it to be fair.
“He chucked me the ball when the announcement came so he’s given me the ball, or I think he has anyway.”
There was a minor kerfuffle in the Western Terrace at the end of the day, with Eranga struck by an object from the crowd as he fielded on the boundary.
The incident looked as if it might cause a problem when the umpires headed to investigate, but the nature of the object appeared to ease tensions. Sri Lanka batsman Dinesh Chandimal laughed off the issue at the close of play, explaining: “Someone threw some cheese that hit Eranga on the back. We were a bit disappointed at the time. But [umpire] Billy Bowden said ‘it’s cheese, not a rock or anything’.”
SRI LANKA First innings
D Karunaratne b Plunkett 28
K Silva c Prior b Anderson 13
K Sangakkara c Bell b Broad 79
M Jayawardene c Jordan b Plunkett 22
L Thirimanne c Robson b Plunkett 0
A Mathews c Ballance b Anderson 26
D Chandimal c Cook b Broad 45
D Prasad c Prior b Plunkett 0
R Herath not out 14
S Eranga c Prior b Broad 0
N Pradeep c Prior b Plunkett 13
Extras (b8, lb7, w2) 17
Total (all out, 69.5 ovs) 257
Fall: 1-37 2-56 3-108 4-108 5-161 6-228 7-229 8-229 9-229. Bowling: Anderson 19-5-49-2, Broad 15-3-46-3, Jordan 16-4-58-0, Plunkett 15.5-2-64-5, Ali 3-0-16-0, Root 1-0-9-0.
ENGLAND First innings
A Cook not out 14
S Robson not out 21
Extras (nb1) 1
Total (0 wkys, 15 ovs) 36
Bowling: Pradeep 5-1-16-0, Eranga 6-3-9-0, Herath 3-1-7-0, Prasad 1-0-4-0.
Sri Lanka lead by 221 runs