Sri Lanka fold again after Moeen's unbeaten century
Sri Lanka 90 for 8 (Woakes 3-9, Broad 3-35) trail England 498 for 9 dec (Moeen 155*, Hales 83, Root 50, Pradeep 4-107) by 407 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Powered by Moeen Ali's career-best 155 and three wickets on recall for Chris Woakes, England put themselves in position to push for another innings victory as Sri Lanka produced an insipid display on the second day at Chester-le-Street. The visiting batting subsided to 90 for 8 in reply to England's 498 for 9, the follow-on surely set to be enforced in the morning, although they at least avoided being sent back in during the evening session, which looked a possibility at one stage.
Moeen's second Test century - his first also came against Sri Lanka, at Headingley in 2014 - allowed England to plunder 188 runs off 42 overs, of which Moeen provided 127, before Alastair Cook declared 40 minutes before tea. One down at the break was a passable start given what happened in Leeds, but things quickly unravelled in the final session, Woakes backing up the early incisions of James Anderson and Stuart Broad by quickly locating a challenging length with some late nip allied to eye-catching pace in the high 80s mph. Broad then returned in the final moments of the day to strike two more blows against the lower order.
Regardless of the defences that can be given to Sri Lanka about the challenges of the conditions and the rebuilding phase the side is going through it was woeful performance from them. The tone was set early when, in stark contrast to their excellent catching on the opening day, they spilled two crucial chances in the first session: Moeen was dropped on 36 and Woakes on 8 inside the first four overs of the day, and from then on Sri Lanka were listless in the field.
The second of those two chances, a regulation outside edge, was spilled by Dinesh Chandimal who was struggling with a thumb injury and at morning drinks was replaced by Kusal Mendis behind the stumps. It begged the question, given that Graham Ford had admitted the injury concern the night before, why the change hadn't been made at the start of the day.
Given a total of 298 at Headingley overwhelmed the Sri Lankans, 498 must have looked a fearful number looming from the scoreboard even as the sun shone brightly during the evening session. Mendis was again the best of an out-classed batting order, although Lahiru Thirimanne showed some pluck to see out the day, but their desperate state was summed up by Angelo Mathews' review when he was given caught behind (having declined to review last week when he would have been saved from his lbw dismissal).
Anderson picked up where he left off at Headingley when he found Dimuth Karunaratne's leg stump in the third over when the left hander moved too far across to try and protect his outside edge. Anderson's first spell, split either side of tea as Cook's declaration allowed his new-ball pair a breather, also included Chandimal whose forgettable day continued when he edged to first slip with hard hands. Broad claimed Kaushal Silva when Jonny Bairstow took a sharp low catch which was referred to the TV umpire, Rod Tucker, although the on-field officials had given the soft signal as out.
Woakes, who had played confidently for his 39 after the early life, was given the ball ahead of Steven Finn and in his second over found Mathews' outside edge. A bowler who has recently taken 9 for 36 probably does not need much of a confidence boost, but when your Test average was upward of 60 removing the opposition's best player is a perfect way to start.
He then added Mendis, exaggerated lift finding the splice of the bat, and Milinda Siriwardana who edged a delivery that kept down - a pair of dismissals which further highlighted why Cook was happy to bat first. Still, it was not a 67 for 6 surface. Thirimanne and Rangana Herath resisted until the penultimate over of the day when Herath sparred to gully. Shaminda Eranga was then taken on the rebound by Joe Root at second slip after James Vince had done well to palm up a fast nick above his head.
England resumed on 310 for 6, talking positively of 450 but probably willing to accept 400. By the time Cook declared, the last four wickets had added 271 runs with Moeen finishing with the fourth-highest score by an England No. 7. He received good support from the lower order, adding 92 for the seventh wicket with Woakes and 98 for the last two wickets combined, reaching three figures from 109 balls with a lofted drive down the ground. His next fifty took just another 43 deliveries, as he cut loose with Finn and Anderson for company, with the 150 being raised by a crunching six over deep midwicket off Suranga Lakmal.
Although he made a half-century two Tests ago, against South Africa at Centurion, it has been a largely lean time with the bat for Moeen since last year's Ashes series where his brisk lower-order contributions were vital at Cardiff and Edgbaston. He has not made any secret that he would prefer to bat higher in the order and in the absence of Ben Stokes he has, temporarily at least, moved up a spot. While not a chanceless innings, he appeared more focused than when he is lumped down with the bowlers.
The only high point of the day for Sri Lanka was Herath's 300th Test which finally came his way in his 28th over when Finn top-edged a slog sweep - Herath was not going to leave the catching to any of his team-mates. He became the third Sri Lankan bowler after Muttiah Muralitharan (light years ahead on 800 wickets) and Chaminda Vass (355) to cross the milestone. He was warmly applauded by the crowd and he raised the ball in acknowledgement, although a touch of reality soon dawned when No. 11 Anderson reverse swept him for four. The fact he had batted, and with more defiance than some, by the end of the day further summed up Sri Lanka's plight.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo