Alex Hales
Hales scored an unbeaten 41 to steer England away from danger. Getty Images

England remain on course to complete a series whitewash of Sri Lanka after taking a healthy lead on day three of the third Test at Lord's. After bowling the tourists out for 288, Alex Hales (41 not out) survived being dropped to steer his team away from danger after a top order collapse.

Sri Lanka had looked to build on an encouraging second day with the bat and establish themselves belatedly in this series - but those ambitions were halted inside the first hour. Resuming on 162 for 1, they added just a further 127 runs with Kaushal Silva failing to add to his overnight score of 79.

The wickets were shared between Chris Woakes, Steven Finn, James Anderson and Stuart Broad as Sri Lanka lost their last four batsman for just 12 runs. England had a first innings lead of 138, but a flurry of early strikes allowed Sri Lanka back into the match.

Without captain Alastair Cook at the top of the order for just the second time in the last decade, England lost three wickets in the opening hour of their second innings as Nick Compton (19), Joe Root (4) and James Vince (0) all succumbed - the latter two being bowled in consecutive deliveries by Nuwan Pradeep. Jonny Barstow (32) survived the hat-trick ball but was also castled by Pradeep.

But Hales held firm and after surviving being dropped by Dimuth Karunaratne on 19, showed signs of his added maturity at Test match level with an intelligently built 41 which stretched the lead beyond 200. With six second innings wickets in hand the knock all but ends Sri Lanka's hopes of claiming a consolation victory and though rain is scheduled for day four England - who closed on 109 for 4, are favourites to take a 3-0 series win.