Cricket

Alex Hales is still searching a maiden Test century after two back-to-back near misses.

Alex Hales will 'live and learn' after frustration of another near miss

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Alex Hales has proved to himself, and plenty of others, that he can be a Test opener of substance - despite the frustration of narrowly missing a maiden century for the second time in under a week.

Hales followed his 86 at Headingley with 83 on day one against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street in the second Investec Test.

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He and Joe Root (80) both appeared to have a hundred in their sights, before getting out with much hard work done as England reached stumps on 310 for six.

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

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

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"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.

"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."

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

"I think we've probably just shaded it so far," he added.

"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."

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.

"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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