Cricket

England's Moeen Ali made an emphatic return to form with the bat.

Moeen Ali vows to carry on attacking after putting Sri Lanka to the sword

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Carefree Moeen Ali will carry on attacking, after his free-flowing second Test century put England in position to push for a series-sealing victory at Chester-le-Street.

Moeen's career-best 155 not out came with a fair slice of good fortune, as well as some beautifully-timed boundaries among his 17 fours and two sixes as England turned 310 for six into a commanding 498 for nine declared.

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It all proved too much for Sri Lanka, who dropped both Moeen and his seventh-wicket partner Chris Woakes early in their crucial stand of 92 on day two - and then faltered badly with the bat for the third time in little more than a week.

Sri Lanka were bowled out for 91 and then 119 on the way to an innings defeat at Headingley, and appear set for an unwanted action replay in this second Investec Test as England close on an unassailable 2-0 lead.

Back-to-form Moeen was delighted with his part in England's telling surge, dominating another partnership of 72 for the ninth wicket with Steven Finn - before Woakes (three for nine), Stuart Broad (three for 35) and James Anderson reduced the tourists to 91 for eight at stumps.

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A move up from number eight to seven has agreed with Moeen, in the absence of injured fellow all-rounder Ben Stokes.

"Last night, I told myself it was a good opportunity to go big," he said.

"It's just nice to go out there and open up a little bit, play freely.

"I feel like I'm getting it back. It's still quite loose ... (but) I've decided today I don't really care, I'm just going to keep playing like that."

The promotion one place up the order has been significant.

"It definitely feels different, a bit more like put your batting mind on and do a job," added Moeen, who bats at number three for Worcestershire.

"You feel like you can contribute with a big score.

"I've had the opportunities at number eight - but it's just not the same.

"I just wanted to enjoy it. I didn't really feel any (extra) pressure."

He has also borrowed from one of Sri Lanka's own this summer - the great Kumar Sangakkara - to try to re-discover his best.

"I watched Sanga a couple of times and he had a higher back-lift, and a nice rhythm to his batting," said Moeen.

"I thought that was what was missing in my batting, so I copied it."

England captain Alastair Cook also helped him find the right frame of mind.

"The day he told me I was batting seven, he said he backed me and wanted me to just go out and play like I play and be myself," added Moeen.

"I got a lot of confidence from that."

Sri Lanka face a highly improbable mission to escape Durham without defeat at some point over the next three days, even accounting for a mixed weather forecast on Monday and Tuesday.

"I think their confidence is low as batters," said Moeen.

"It's quite slow, so it's going to be hard work to try to bowl them out again ... but the way we're bowling, we've got two of the best in the world for these conditions."

The tourists' evergreen spinner Rangana Herath took some punishment from Moeen in particular as he conceded 116 runs in pursuit of his 300th Test wicket.

He finally bagged Finn but must balance satisfaction at his own hard-earned milestone with Sri Lanka's plight.

"It's a big achievement taking 300 Test wickets," said Herath, who acknowledged Moeen's escape on 36 and Woakes' on eight were very costly.

"That's where the game got away from us, dropping those two very important chances ... and then Moeen batted very well.

"We need to learn and improve in all departments in these conditions."

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