Alex Hales hit another half-century for England.

Alex Hales frustrated at near miss but feels 'in good touch'

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Alex Hales admits his frustration at narrowly missing a maiden Test century for the second successive time in under a week.

But after following his 86 at Headingley with 83 on day one against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street, he is confident he is doing plenty right as a Test opener.

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Hales and Joe Root (80) both appeared to have a hundred in their sights, before getting out with all the hard work done as England reached stumps on 310 for six after winning the toss in this second Investec Test.

There was an extra element of unwanted symmetry for Hales too, because as in Leeds he fell trying to attack a spinner - having come through an examination by seam and swing under cloudy skies.

This time, a moment of brilliance from Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews - diving to his right to take a one-handed catch at slip - accounted for him when he edged a cut at Milinda Siriwardana, having just hit the slow left-armer over his head for six.

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Reflecting on his dismissal, Hales said: "It was a combination of surprise, frustration and anger - disappointed obviously to get out again in the 80s.

"I tried to hit it a little bit hard, and lost my shape a bit. But I live and learn."

England secured the advantage by stumps, but it was a mixed day which began with captain Alastair Cook falling once again short of a prized career aggregate of 10,000 Test runs.

In only his sixth Test, Hales is just setting out as an international opener - and is hoping he does not squander too many more chances like this one.

"I was frustrated," he said.

"Particularly as an opener, if you get yourself in and do the hard yards, you want to be cashing in and getting those hundreds - because when you face the new ball there's going to be times when you get single-figure scores and good balls early on.

"But I feel in good touch for the rest of the series."

He explained the thought process just before he was out, and where he thinks he might have done things differently.

"The ball I hit for six, he tossed up and over-pitched, and I figured it was a safe option," he said.

"Then it was the next ball I got out.

"It was short and a little bit wide, and I guess maybe the adrenaline got the better of me - and I tried to lamp it for four when I should have stayed on the shot and taken the single."

Hales is beginning to feel at home in only his second Test series, but added: "I won't be getting complacent.

"It was only a couple of games ago I was averaging 17, and there were questions over my spot.

"It's still only a start, and I've still got a lot of stuff to prove.

"I still feel like I'm improving every day as a red-ball cricketer."

He hopes he has helped put England in a handy position.

He said: "I think we've probably just shaded it so far.

"The guys got a couple of scores and maybe could have kicked on to bigger scores.

"The first hour tomorrow will be important. If we can get through that with minimal damage, we can push on to 450 - which will be a really good score on this pitch.

"I think day one will probably be the best conditions to bat on - there looked to be a bit of variable bounce, so we hope batting first should come into our favour later in the game."

Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford acknowledges the match situation - but is encouraged by his players' reaction to their innings trouncing in the first Test.

He said of England: "They're probably slightly ahead on the day. But I'm pretty proud of how our boys stuck to it.

"There wasn't that much in the bowlers' favour on that surface. We're not a side that has a huge amount of (bowling) firepower ... but we got a good, honest day's work done and it was pleasing to see the fielders backing that up.

"I've always had a huge regard for the attitude of Sri Lankan players - and after the disappointment of last week, the guys have really put in a lot of effort."

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