Hales hits 94 as intriguing finale looms at Lord's


Alex Hales again suffered frustration in his bid to record a maiden Test hundred, but there was better news for Alastair Cook as England set Sri Lanka a challenging victory target on a truncated fourth day at Lord's.

Already 2-0 up in the three-Test series, England declared on 233-7 during Sunday's evening session to leave Sri Lanka requiring 362. The tourists made encouraging initial progress and closed on 32 without loss.

Cook had been unable to bat at the beginning of his side's second innings, having been struck on the knee when fielding on Saturday, but the captain eased fears over his fitness by contributing an unbeaten 49 from number seven.

After making scores of 86 and 83 in the first two Tests at Headingley and Chester-le-Street, Hales looked set to end his wait for a five-day century, only to fall lbw to Angelo Mathews for 94.

Hales and his usual opening partner were nevertheless chiefly responsible for ensuring England added 124 runs to their overnight total of 109-4 on a day when only 45 overs were completed due to rain.

With the pitch continuing to deteriorate and a more encouraging weather forecast for the final day, Cook's men will remain hopeful of completing a series clean sweep.

The morning session was washed out on Sunday and there was an early scare for Hales when play eventually got under way, a Sri Lanka review for lbw in the first over proving unsuccessful.

Shaminda Eranga enjoyed better luck with an appeal against nightwatchman Steven Finn (7), but the hosts continued to benefit from good fortune as Nuwan Pradeep bowled Hales, only to be the victim of a no-ball call that appeared harsh.

Cook also rode his luck as he successfully reviewed an lbw verdict that had initially gone in favour of Rangana Herath, before seeing Sri Lanka fail to go upstairs soon after when another review would have sent England's skipper on his way.

With plenty of turn available to Herath, Hales counter-attacked effectively, moving into the nineties with a slog-swept four having earlier taken 10 off two balls from the left-arm spinner.

Yet Mathews proved the party-pooper as he pinned Hales in front, ensuring Cook took centre stage for the remainder of England's innings, amid three brief rain interruptions.

There was laughter on the England balcony as, following Moeen Ali's dismissal for nine, the usually cautious Cook twice attempted ungainly scoop shots either side of a heaved six over midwicket off Eranga.

A declaration was not long in coming, but England could not find a way through in the 12 overs that followed as Dimuth Karunaratne (19 not out) and Kaushal Silva (12 not out) held firm.