Alex Hales was the star for England on day one of the second Test match against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street. The Nottinghamshire opening batsman produced one of his most mature performances in an England shirt, scoring an impressive 83 as the hosts reached the close on 310 for 6.
Captain Alastair Cook won the toss and opted to bat first under grey skies, and it was the Essex batsman who was the first to go for 15 – which means he is still five runs short of the 10,000-run barrier. Cook was quickly followed by the under-pressure Nick Compton, whose top-edged pull stroke was brilliantly caught by Suranga Lakmal on the boundary.
Hales, 27, subsequently combined with Joe Root to produce the most eye-catching partnership of the day, as the duo put on a 96-run stand. But just as the tall right-hander appeared to be easing his way towards a maiden Test century, he cut spinner Milinda Siriwardana to Angelo Matthews at slip – the ball before he had been hit for six.
Root, meanwhile, played a typically fluent knock for his 80 runs and managed to increase the England run rate by virtue of his good placement and intent at the crease.
Once again, though, he was dismissed when a century appeared to be on the cards. A ball from Nuwan Pradeep reared at him from just back of a length and took the splice of the Yorkshireman's bat before popping up into the off-side.
The England vice-captain was soon followed back to the pavilion by James Vince, who scored 35 attractive runs before he was expertly caught at cover off the bowling of Siriwardana.
However, fears of England suffering an all-too-familiar collapse were allayed by Moeen Ali and the in-form Jonny Bairstow, who continued his good form from the previous Test to score 48 before losing his wicket shortly before the close.