Ballance Century Leaves Test Nicely Poised
England 575-9 dec. (Root 200no) & 267-8 v
Sri Lanka 453 (Sangakkara 147)
First Test, Lord's, day four
An intriguing final day of the first Test between England and Sri Lanka lies in store at Lord's after Gary Ballance hurried to an unbeaten century to put England 389 runs ahead at stumps.
That was his maiden Test century and it came after Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews had earlier reached three figures for the tourists.
Sri Lanka were bowled out for 453 in reply to Englnad's 575 for nine declared and before Ballance's superb effort, England were in trouble at 121 for six.
Along with support from the lower order, Ballance nullified Shaminda Eranga and Rangana Herath sharing seven wickets to reach his century in the final over - with a six - and leave Sri Lanka facing a huge task to win the game on the final day.
That is assuming England do declare overnight, but given that Ballance moved from 82 to his century in just seven balls, it is fair to assume he was not expecting the home side to bat into the final day.
Sri Lanka resumed on 415 for seven and frustrated England, who took 30 minutes before removing Herath for two when he was bowled by James Anderson.
At the other end, Mathews stood firm and reached his century by driving through the covers for four before he was trapped in front by Liam Plunkett for 102 in 172 balls.
Eranga (5 not out) and Nuwan Pradeep (4) added 10 more runs until the innings was ended in unusual circumstances when Pradeep was struck by a Chris Jordan bouncer, breaking his wicket as he collapsed to the ground.
Fortunately he was none the worse for the experience and took the new ball along with Nuwan Kulasekara as England made it to lunch on 27 without lunch.
The game changed direction when Eranga and Herath were brought on and they instigated a collapse that threatened to put England under massive pressure.
First, Alastair Cook was caught behind off Eranga for 28 and Sam Robson inside-edged the same bowler onto his stumps for 19.
Ian Bell struck one four but became Eranga's third wicket when he was comprehensively bowled to leave England 69 for three.
And there was to be no rescue act from the players who launched England's recovery in their first innings as Joe Root (15), Moeen Ali (4) and Matthew Prior (16) also fell cheaply.
Root was trapped in front by Herath before Ali hit his first ball for four, coming down the track to Herath, who flighted the next delivery a little more and had him bowled - a triumph of experience and guile over youthful overexuberance.
Prior struggled early on, surviving a huge leg-before shout before cutting Kulasekara into the hands of Lahiru Thirimanne in the gully.
Ballance, meanwhile, was composed at the other end and he finally received support from Jordan and Stuart Broad, and that enabled him to lead the counter-attack.
Jordan struck five boundaries in a punch 50-ball knock of 35, adding 78 with Ballance for the seventh wicket, which came when he was caught by Kumar Sangakkara off Herath.
Broad then hit three fours in making 24 in 18 balls as he and Ballance put on 57 in 5.2 overs, accelerating their way towards a seemingly impregnable lead.
Broad was caught and bowled by Herath which held proceedings up a little but once Plunkett was able to get the Yorkshire left-hander back on strike, he wasted no time in launching Herath over mid-wicket for a maximum.
He closed unbeaten on 104 in 188 balls with Plunkett not out on two.
© Cricket World 2014