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Prolific Bairstow rescues England again

England 279 for 6 (Bairstow 107*, Woakes 23*) v Sri Lanka
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Jonny Bairstow, looking more imposing and battle-hardened by the month, completed his third Test hundred in eight innings to rouse England from a problematic opening day in the Lord's Test. For Bairstow, it could not be a more perfect treble: Cape Town, a maiden hundred where his father 'Bluey' spent his winters; Headingley, his home ground, an outpouring of Yorkshire pride; and now Lord's, where a Test century is regarded as the greatest gift of all.

Bairstow's hundred came 11 balls from the close when he tucked Rangana Herath through square leg and emitted what has now become a recognisable primeval roar, his rugged beard caked with sweat, not the sort of sight you would want to encounter on a foggy night on Baildon Moor. Not the sort of sight, if you are a Test attack looking for just rewards, that you particularly want to meet at Lord's either.

Bairstow, the ginger energiser, rode his luck at times. He should have fallen on 11 when Shaminda Eranga spilled an inviting chance at midwicket off Nuwan Pradeep, a chance which, if taken, would have left England 102 for 5. He also survived Sri Lanka's lbw review, on 56, by the width of a single thread of seam after the umpire, Sundaram Ravi, had initially turned down the appeal. The bowler was Eranga, desperately unfortunate to be denied the chance to put right his blemish in the field.

But it was Bairstow's desire and the equilibrium of his captain, Alastair Cook, that allowed England to escape to 279 for 6 on a day when Sri Lanka's seam attack, led by Pradeep, drew more encouragement than might initially have been expected on what had appeared to be a bountiful batting surface and the tubby left-arm impresario Herath again revealed a charming ability to kill with kindness.

England have the series won, but questions about a sketchy batting order remain as pressing as ever after Sri Lanka, finally able to feel the sun on their backs, looked a more methodical bowling outfit than they had done in two nithering northern Tests as they sought to extend a good Lord's record with a victory, in a series already conceded after heavy defeats at Headingley and Chester-le-Street.

Cook, the youngest man to reach 10,000 Test match runs, five months ahead of Sachin Tendulkar, had been presented with an encased silver bat to mark the occasion before the start of the final Test at Lord's.

The bat so received, it was time to encase his mind and make inroads into the next 10,000. Not for the first time, England were fortunate for his resilience. His failure to log a 29th Test hundred when Pradeep had him lbw for 85 came as a surprise to many in the capacity crowd, but his was the steady heartbeat in an ailing England batting line-up with uncomfortable questions remaining unanswered ahead of the Test series against Pakistan.

"The first session will be crucial," Cook had said, not that he personally needed any reminding of the fact in his 129th Test. The pitch looked flat and the weather was settled. Pads were buckled, helmet donned and once again he settled into the rhythms of an English Test summer, dispatching anything on his pads with familiar authority.

But others were less successful. To a batsman possessing Cook's rational approach, to lose four for 88 must have seemed entirely illogical. And of those four wickets to fall only Joe Root can claim that his place is impregnable.

Alex Hales must wish he could settle into the sort of natural Test rhythm that Cook finds so effortless. A quicker tempo perhaps but one in which he can make his own music. He settled reasonably enough against the new ball, but Angelo Mathews' medium pace seemed to make him jittery. When Herath had his first perambulation of the innings, Hales self-destructed against the second ball he faced, attempting a mow over long-on but the ball instead looping gently to first slip where Mathews held the catch.

It was the fourth time that Hales has fallen to spin in this series and the fact that England's opening stand of 56 was their highest of the series was an indicator of the lurking issues.

Nick Compton left five overs later, only a single to his name, and was treated to the slightly embarrassed Lord's silence upon his dismissal that communicates an expectation of impending doom. In its uncomfortable disapproval, it feels more like a blackballing than the open criticism preferred elsewhere.

Compton drove charily at an overpitched delivery from Suranga Lakmal wandering down the slope and edged to Dinesh Chandimal, who had been passed fit to keep wicket. Compton is unlikely to figure in the Test series against Pakistan, the selectors' patience - and they have been patient - surely exhausted.

Compton's mind is also encased, but in his case it so encased in the grip of self-doubt that he appears inhibited at the crease. In his 16 Tests for England he has rarely played with freedom, but his unproductive form now extends to county cricket, so much so that he has not struck a half-century for 17 first-class innings. If he loses his England place, it is hard to imagine him spending golden years on the county circuit.

Fifteen minutes before lunch, Sri Lanka picked up Joe Root as well, the most valued wicket of all. Root got too far across to an angled delivery from Lakmal and Sri Lanka overturned umpire Rod Tucker's "not out" on review. England had lost 3 for 15 in 40 balls and suddenly it was Sri Lanka's morning.

England were 84 for 4 on a surface that had promised batting riches when James Vince was bowled by Pradeep, pushing emphatically down the wrong line whereupon his off bail was clipped from the stumps with the certainty of a kitchen chef slicing the vegetables. It was a fine post-lunch period by Sri Lanka as Eranga and Lakmal also passed the outside edge in a focused display.

By the time Cook departed five minutes before tea, lbw to a delivery angled in from around the wicket by Pradeep, there was a sense of a recovery. Moeen Ali hung around in that, too often, fascinating, fleeting Mayfly way of his until he was beautifully unpicked by Herath, who followed up one which bounced and turned surprisingly with a little floater to have him caught at slip.

But Eranga's failure to hold Bairstow's clip off his pads gradually ate away at Sri Lanka's day. Two boundaries for Bairstow in the next four balls suggested that the fizz might have been let out of the bottle, and although that fizz spilled fortunately through the slips at times - Mathews shuffling his slips and gullies with the impatience of a roulette loser in a Colombo casino - his gusto carried England to the end of a difficult day which presented more questions than answers.