England 498-9 dec against Sri Lanka
CHESTER-LE-STREET: Moeen Ali capitalised on poor Sri Lanka fielding with an innings of 155 not out as England established a commanding position on the second day of the second Test at the Riverside on Saturday.
Ali’s century, his second Test hundred, was the cornerstone of England’s 498 for nine declared.
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At tea, Sri Lanka were 32 for one in reply, a deficit of 466 runs, after Dimuth Karunaratne was bowled round his legs by James Anderson.
Kaushal Silva was nine not out and Kusal Mendis 14 not out.
England’s total was especially imposing given Sri Lanka had been dismissed for 91 and 119 during the hosts’ innings and 88-run victory in the first Test of this three-match series at Headingley last week.
Ali’s hundred was also his second in Tests against Sri Lanka following an unbeaten 108 in a losing cause at Headingley two years ago.
Having made his name as top-order batsman with Worcestershire, Ali has primarily been deployed by England as an off-spinner.
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Often batting as low as No 8, he was promoted to No 7 after all-rounder Ben Stokes was ruled out of this match with a knee injury.
The day before this match started, England captain Alastair Cook said: “I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Mo’s batting.”
Ali, dropped on 36 and 105, did his best to set his skipper straight as he ran a sloppy Sri Lanka ragged, taking twos even when the field had been pushed back.
England resumed Saturday well-placed on 310 for six.
Left-hander Ali was 28 not out and Chris Woakes, in for Stokes, eight not out.
Sri Lanka held several brilliant catches on Friday, but Saturday’s early overs saw them drop two chances.
Ali fended outside off stump against Nuwan Pradeep but Karunaratne at a wide second slip couldn’t hold the shoulder high chance.
Worse followed when Woakes, yet to add to his overnight score, edged Shaminda Eranga straight behind.
But wicket-keeper Dinesh Chandimal, who appeared not to see the ball until too late, didn’t even get a glove on the routine chance.
Even allowing for the fact Chandimal was nursing a thumb injury suffered Friday, this was still an extraordinary miss by a Test-match wicket-keeper.
The drinks break saw Mendis, one of several wicket-keeper/batsmen in the Sri Lanka squad, replace Chandimal behind the stumps.
Woakes’s luck ran out on 39 when he edged Lakmal and Mendis held a simple catch to end a seventh-wicket stand of 92.
Ali, unbeaten on 85 at lunch, went to his hundred in style, driving paceman Pradeep on the up for his 12th four in 152 balls.
Ali had made 105 when he miscued a pull off Shaminda Eranga, only for Milinda Siriwardana to make a complete hash of the opportunity on the boundary.
The 28-year-old cashed in, driving left-arm spinner Rangana Herath for six before hoisting paceman Suranga Lakmal high over the rope to go to 150.
Herath did take his 300th Test wicket when he caught and bowled a slogging Steven Finn — he might still have been waiting for the landmark had he left the chance to one of his team-mates on Saturday.
But such was England’s dominance with the bat, last man Anderson got off the mark by reverse-sweeping Herath for four.
Ali scored 70 of the 90 runs England piled on in 16 overs after lunch before Cook declared.
His near five-hour innings saw Ali face 207 balls, including 17 fours and two sixes.
All of Sri Lanka’s four main bowlers conceded more than 100 runs each, although Pradeep’s return of four for 107 in 33 overs was economical in the circumstances.