Ali Tour de Force cannot save England

England

Batsman Moeen Ali cemented a berth in the Test XI for the foreseeable future on the back of a very patient century, but was unable to force a late draw on day five of the second and final Test at Headingley in Leeds on Tuesday.

Batsman Moeen Ali cemented a berth in the Test XI for the foreseeable future on the back of a very patient century, but was unable to force a late draw on day five of the second and final Test at Headingley in Leeds on Tuesday.

Instead, tail-ender James Anderson perished in the final scheduled over – the penultimate delivery, in fact – to afford Sri Lanka a compelling 100-run win and historic one-nil series victory.

Resuming on 57 for five and unlikely to pursue a staunch 350-run target, England's quest to survive three sessions was enabled by a substantial rain delay before the lunch break.

Ali and fellow all-rounder Joe Root flanked the inclement weather with dogged resistance, orchestrating a pedestrian 67-run alliance in three deliveries more than 30 overs. Occupation of the crease rather than the addition of runs to the scoreboard was the mandate throughout – and the rest of the order followed suit.

The right-handed Root was eventually removed by fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep, whose full lengths were complemented by fellow right-armer Shaminda Eranga's ability to extract steep bounce. Wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior was the next to fall, as pace ace Dhammika Prasad's bounce brought short-leg fielder Kaushal Silva – one of several close-in catchers – an easy snatch. Prasad ended with telling second-innings figures of five for 50.

All-rounder Chris Jordan, dismissed off a no-ball, looked to capitalise on the lifeline. The reintroduction of spinner Rangana Herath, however, soon ended this ambition. Herath, too, got rid of the left-handed Stuart Broad for a duck. A pitch very conducive to turn aided the veteran Sri Lankan entirely.

With partners perishing at relatively regular intervals, Ali remained firm – and ultimately cherished a maiden Test ton. His vigil spanned all of 281 deliveries, featuring 17 boundaries. Having spent a long period in the nervous 90s and failing to punish several full toss, the bearded left-hander was grateful to reach the milestone.

As bad light loomed, skipper Angelo Mathews deployed part-time spinner Mahela Jayawardene. Overhead conditions improved, though, affording Eranga a return to the fray. He duly delivered, effectively bouncing Anderson out – to seal Sri Lanka's first ever two-Test series success in the United Kingdom.

Anderson, whose 55-ball duck proved in vain, was named England's Player of the Series regardless. Batting ambition aside, he took a dozen wickets in two fixtures. Mathews took the Sri Lankan accolade – and was also named Man of the Match on the back of two centuries and a slew of key wickets.

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