England v Sri Lanka: Gary Ballance ton gives hosts control
|First Test, day four|
|England 575-9 dec & 267-8 v Sri Lanka 453|
Gary Ballance struck a brilliant maiden Test century as England survived a scare to set up a tilt at victory over Sri Lanka in the first Test at Lord's.
The Zimbabwe-born Yorkshire batsman smashed Rangana Herath for six in the final over of the day to bring up his hundred in only his second Test and guide England to 267-8 in their second innings, 389 ahead.
On a riveting fourth day which began with Sri Lanka being bowled out for 453 in reply to England's 575-9 declared, the tourists had roared back into contention by reducing their hosts to 121-6 in their second innings, a lead of just 243 with almost four sessions of the match remaining.
But the cool-headed Ballance led England's recovery from number three with a vital innings of courage and skill.
He put on 78 for the seventh wicket with Chris Jordan (35), a rapid 57 off 44 balls with Stuart Broad, and finished unbeaten on 104.
After appearing to receive a message from the dressing room that England would be declaring overnight, he pulled off a series of reverse sweeps, drives and cuts before memorably hammering the first ball of the last over into the midwicket stand.
With the Windies' 344 in 1984 the highest fourth-innings run chase at Lord's, England have all but extinguished Sri Lanka's chances of a win and will now hope to bowl out the tourists on the final day to take a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
A match that had appeared destined for stalemate when Sri Lanka passed the follow-on mark on Saturday afternoon exploded into life when the tourists ripped through England's top order after lunch on day four.
Bowling a full length with a hint of swing, Shaminda Eranga took 3-3 in 21 balls and left-arm spinner Herath weighed in with two wickets as the batting frailties that plagued England through their 5-0 Ashes whitewash resurfaced.
|Highest Test fourth-innings chases at Lord's|
|344-1||West Indies v India, 1984|
|282-3||England v New Zealand, 2004|
|218-3||England v New Zealand, 1965|
|193-5||England v West Indies, 2012|
|191-8||England v West Indies, 2000|
Kevin Pietersen, who was dismissed from the team in the wake of the debacle down under, watched from a corporate box as England reached 27-0 at lunch before falling apart.
Captain Alastair Cook's run of Test innings without a hundred extended to 22 as he played a firm-footed drive and got a faint edge through to the keeper.
In Eranga's next over, Sam Robson played around a full ball and was bowled via an inside edge. And Ian Bell was out in similar fashion, playing an expansive drive and nicking onto his off stump for nine.
Joe Root, England's double centurion in the first innings, could only add 15 before he was deceived in the flight by Herath and rapped on the pads directly in front of middle stump.
Debutant Moeen Ali nonchalantly lofted his first ball over the infield for four, but was undone on his next ball as Herath spun one through the gate.
When Matt Prior, who was reprieved from a marginal lbw from his second ball for the second time in the match, was caught at gully for 16, England were wobbling badly.
But Ballance, first through steady accumulation and later through thrilling strokeplay, restored England to a position of authority and one from which they will fancy their chances of winning the game.
Earlier, England had taken the last three Sri Lanka wickets for the addition of only 38 runs, but not before Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews had joined team-mate Kumar Sangakkara on the Lord's honours board with his third Test ton.
After Herath had been yorked by James Anderson, Mathews brought up his landmark by driving the same bowler through the covers for four.
Soon afterwards, Liam Plunkett trapped Mathews lbw and Jordan wrapped up the innings in bizarre fashion when Nuwan Pradeep was struck by a bouncer and collapsed onto his stumps.
Listen to Jonathan Agnew and Geoffrey Boycott analyse the day's play in the Test Match Special podcast.