Pacers put England on top after Moeen Ali's 155

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Old 29-May-2016
Pacers put England on top after Moeen Ali's 155

An injury to Ben Stokes gave Moeen Ali to a chance to bat up a spot. It won't be surprising to know if the left-hander later reveals he has been waiting for a chance to bat a little up the order. Ali did his reputation no harm and stroked a classy 207-ball 155 to help England declare 498 for 9 on the second day of the second Test at the Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street on Saturday (May 28). In reply, Sri Lanka were dealt blow after blow from Chris Woakes (3 for 9) and were reeling at 91 for 8 at stumps.

At the start of another cold morning, Sri Lanka must have harboured hopes of keeping the hosts to under 400. However, two chances were grassed in the first three overs. Ali had Woakes with him, they were shouldering England's hopes of posting a good total and both received reprieves. Ali was dropped by Dimuth Karunaratne at gully while an outside edge flew past Dinesh Chandimal, the wicketkeeper, off Woakes's bat.

The score was 322 and England could have been easily eight down. However, both Ali and Woakes went on to add 92 runs for the seventh wicket to frustrate the Sri Lankans. Woaked finally fell in the 109th over but not before the score had swelled from 310 to 389.

Sri Lanka then nipped out Stuart Broad (7) but what followed was another period of frustration for Angelo Mathews and his men. Steven Finn (10 off 37) walked out after close to a three-minute delay after the sudden fall of quick wickets. More importantly, he settled down to guide England with Ali. While the latter took on the bowlers, Finn ensured he held one end up. The ninth wicket stand yielded another crucial 72 runs and the hosts were past the 450-run mark then.

All this while, Rangana Herath kept toiling in search of his 300th Test victim. Ali took a special liking to him and played aggressive strokes to nullify Herath's threat. The wicket did come but not before the left-arm spinner had bowled 29 overs and given away 116 runs. The agonising wait finally came to an end when Finn became Herath's 300th victim. Ali was on 136 then and England gave him a chance to go past his maiden 150 before declaring.

After spending 132 overs on the field, Sri Lanka's start with the bat was far from ideal. They lost Karunaratne - bowled by James Anderson in the third over - for just nine. Kaushal Silva (13) and Kusal Mendis then resisted for close to ten overs before Broad ended Silva's 22-ball vigil.

In the first Test, the Sri Lankan batsmen offered little resistance in testing conditions. That continued even when the sun came out in cold Durham. From 44 for one, Sri Lanka nosedived to 67 for six. James Anderson, Broad and Woakes all bagged wickets to tighten the noose on the visitors. Mathews, who survived just eight deliveries for his three, wasted a review after he was caught behind. The ball that left him after pitching clearly took the edge and then brushed his pad on the way to Jonny Bairstow.

Woakes carried his form from county cricket to Test cricket. On what has been playing a slow surface, he managed to nip the ball around, extract extra bounce and trouble the batsmen. He accounted for Kusal Mendis (35), Mathews and Milinda Siriwardana (0) to run through the middle-order. After Siriwardana's dismissal, Thirimanne and Herath batted for 98 deliveries which incidentally was the longest in terms of balls faced for the visitors in this series. Stuart Broad broke the resistance as Herath edged one to the slip cordon and then Eranga followed suit in the same over before stumps.

With Sri Lanka's middle-order dismantled and a follow-on looming, if another such a batting performance continues, Alastair Cook may well have to wait for the next Test to become the youngest batsman to get to 10000 runs in Tests. A three-day Test, yet again, is well and truly on the cards unless the Lankan batsmen pull up their socks.

Brief scores: England 498-9 dec (Moeen Ali 155*, Alex Hales 83, Joe Root 80; Nuwan Pradeep 4-107) lead Sri Lanka 91 for 8 (Kusal Mendis 35, Chris Woakes 3-9, Stuart Broad 3-35) by 407 runs

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