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Hales falls short of ton but England on course for whitewash

By David Clough

Alex Hales narrowly missed his maiden Test century at Lord's as England pressed for a 3-0 Investec series whitewash of Sri Lanka.

Both Hales (94) and Alastair Cook had collector's-item good fortune on their side, via DRS and playing conditions, before England declared on 233 for seven on day four of the third Test.

A especially unusual escape on 58 for Hales, thanks to an errant no-ball call by umpire Rod Tucker, brought a sideshow of minor controversy.

Sri Lanka draped their national flag over the team balcony as a demonstration of moral support for unlucky bowler Nuwan Pradeep (three for 37), then had to take it down at the request of MCC because it contravened ground rules.

The bottom line, however, was that - after Hales and Cook's stand of 82 - England were able to set their opponents an improbable 362 and had obvious prospects of a third successive victory, albeit harder-earned than the previous two.

Hales endured a patchy first tour of South Africa, where he averaged only 17, but now looks a genuine Test opener alongside skipper Alastair Cook.

The 27-year-old finished the current series with 292 runs at an average of 58.4, and he said: "I'm really pleased, I'd have definitely taken that after South Africa where I had a tough time of it.

"I learned a lot from that tour and this is something to build on for the rest of the summer.

"In South Africa I was a bit tentative, not leaving as many balls as I should have done outside off stump.

"But leading up to this series it is something I really worked on and I'm still working on it.

"I've felt okay so far this summer.

"So far it's been me making errors once I've got myself in, but that's not a bad place to be, knowing it's you making mistakes rather than feeling out of your depth.

"I'm looking forward to building on it for the Pakistan tour."

England declared on 233 for seven with Cook, batting down the order after a knee injury, unbeaten on 49.

Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva safely negotiated 12 overs as Sri Lanka reached 32 without loss at the close.

Sri Lanka's highest successful chase in a Test is the 352-9 they made to beat South Africa in Colombo in 2006, while the biggest total to win at Lord's is West Indies' 344-1 against England in 1984.

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