Twin tons leave result in balance

England

Fine centuries from England batsman Gary Ballance and Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews highlighted a seesaw day four at Lord's in London on Sunday.

Fine centuries from England batsman Gary Ballance and Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews highlighted a seesaw day four at Lord's in London on Sunday.

Ballance's unbeaten 104 and Mathews' commanding 102 have put the first Test on course for an intriguing end come the final three sessions on Monday.

While the hosts have not declared yet, an overnight decision will likely leave the Sri Lankans in pursuit of a staunch 390-run target for a vital series lead – or the choice to force a draw.

Sri Lanka resumed on 415 for seven, sporting high hopes of perhaps edging a small lead. The tail-enders, however, didn't oblige – and Mathews was left to carefully shepherd numbers nine, 10 and 11 en route to a solid ton.

Capping a final total of 453 all out with a 102 admittedly overshadowed by former skipper Kumar Sangakkara's maiden Lord's Test ton on Saturday, Mathews later welcomed a superb performance from the bowlers.

England's bid to grow a 122-run lead was soon hurt by the early fall of captain Alastair Cook and debutant Sam Robson. The opening brace of a telling three wickets from fast bowler Shaminda Eranga, Cook and Robson were flummoxed by lateral movement off the seam.

Middle-order trio Ian Bell, Joe Root and Moeen Ali came and went in relatively quick succession, leaving the home side in need of a characteristically rearguard vigil from wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior.

That didn't transpire and, at 121 for six, the Zimbabwean-bred Ballance and Barbados-born Chris Jordan dutifully contributed to the complexities of the cosmopolitan England XI.

Their stand of 78 and another of 57 between Ballance and Broad proved enough to drag the English out of trouble. Delaying the declaration in order to facilitate the lavish left-hander's century, Cook watched from the famous balcony as Ballance launched a huge six over midwicket in the closing over.

That mighty strike saw the 24-year-old scream to three figures, celebrate jubilantly – and accept a rousing ovation from the appreciative crowd. County team-mate Liam Plunkett was, fittingly, at the crease to congratulate the centurion.

While Eranga's three for 63 and spinner Rangana Herath's four for 95 had caused England initial concern, Ballance's defiance now has the Sri Lankans plotting escape.

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