England v Sri Lanka: Moeen Ali hits maiden ODI century in defeat

Moeen Ali hits out in Colombo
Moeen now averages 50 from his six one-day internationals
First one-day international, Colombo (RPS):
Sri Lanka 317-6 (50 overs) beat England 292 (47.1 overs) by 25 runs
Match scorecard

Moeen Ali's sublime maiden one-day international century could not prevent England losing the opening match with Sri Lanka by 25 runs in Colombo.

In only his sixth ODI, the 27-year-old Worcestershire left-hander hit 11 fours and five sixes in 119 from 87 balls.

Ravi Bopara was last out for 65 as England were dismissed in the 48th over to trail in the seven-match series.

Tillakaratne Dilshan hit 10 fours in his 88 as Sri Lanka posted 317-6, their highest home ODI score against England.

Test Match Special commentator Simon Hughes:
"Moeen Ali's cricket tangibly uplifts England. When he's involved - batting or bowling - the players have an extra spring in their step. But natural talent is not enough. England need to play smarter cricket too."
Read more from "The Analyst"

With no Test match until April, England's longest break from the five-day game since 1989, the focus is firmly on limited overs and the World Cup in February - but a sixth defeat in seven matches reinforced the view that there is work to do in the 50-over format.

However, Moeen's stylish innings, the third fastest England ODI century, plus Bopara's thrilling 62-ball rearguard, offered hope that they have players capable of making significant scores quickly.

After morning rain delayed the day-night contest at the Premadasa Stadium by an hour, Steven Finn was left out because of a groin problem so the inexperienced Chris Woakes and Harry Gurney, with only 26 caps between them, opened the bowling in the absence on this tour of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

After Alastair Cook had opted to field, the England seamers failed to exploit some helpful early conditions as left-hander Kusal Perera and Dilshan brought up a century opening partnership in the 19th over, with seven bowlers tried in the first 21.

Mahela Jayawardene made his 75th ODI half-century and skipper Angelo Mathews dispatched the first two balls of the 43rd over for six to bring up the 250.

Fastest England ODI centuries
61 balls: Jos Buttler v Sri Lanka, Lord's 2014
69 balls: Kevin Pietersen v South Africa, East London, 2005
72 balls: Moeen Ali v Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2014
74 balls: Ravi Bopara v Ireland, Malahide, 2013

Off-spinner James Tredwell (2-52) dismissed Mathews and Jayawardene with consecutive deliveries before 21 came from the penultimate over bowled by Woakes. The tourists were also guilty of 17 wides in the innings.

England, whose previous highest score in Sri Lanka was 234-8, had only passed 300 to win on two previous occasions and omitted the powerful Alex Hales to pair Cook and Moeen at the top of the order.

Cook, who successfully overturned successive lbw decisions off Mathews in the first over, departed for 10 in the seventh over to Dilshan's opening delivery, but Moeen demonstrated exquisite timing with shots all around the wicket to reach his fifty from 25 balls, as England raced to 81-1 in the first 10 overs.

Moeen swept spinner Rangana Herath for successive sixes but was reprieved in the deep on 72 before reaching his hundred in the 27th over.

He had brought up the England 200 with another six in the 31st over when he chipped back a return catch to spinner Jeevan Mendis.

Sri Lanka, beaten 5-0 in India this month, were missing the firepower of injured paceman Lasith Malinga and Bopara kept England in contention, reaching his fifty with a six in the 45th over.

With last man Gurney at the other end, Bopara holed out but England will hope for further improvement in the second match at the same venue on Saturday.

An England fan in Colombo
Prospects for play had appeared bleak earlier in the day
Tillakaratne Dilshan
Dilshan got the Sri Lankan innings off to a positive start

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