Cricket: Moeen Ali century not enough for England

England's Moeen Ali is watched by Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara  and Mahela Jayawardene as he plays a shot. Picture: Getty
England's Moeen Ali is watched by Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene as he plays a shot. Picture: Getty
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ALASTAIR Cook bemoaned a chance of victory that “got away” from England, after Moeen Ali’s outstanding maiden one-day international hundred against Sri Lanka.

Moeen (119) gave England a wonderful opportunity to break new ground with what would have been their highest successful ODI chase, after their hosts piled up 317 for six in the first match of seven.

But under the Premadasa Stadium lights, they faltered and ended up 292 all out – with almost three overs unused – when Ravi Bopara (65) was last out to Thisara Perera (three for 44).

There was not enough support for Moeen from England’s middle order, and so ultimately Sri Lanka’s three half-centuries to two made a telling difference.

Cook was therefore left to reflect on what might have been, in his team’s first international match of their World Cup ­winter.

He said: “It feels bad at the moment. Any time you lose, playing for England, hurts – and we did a lot of things pretty well in that game.

“Obviously, Mo played an outstanding innings.

“We dragged it back pretty well with the ball, after a pretty shaky start, and the guys in the dressing room kind of think that was one that got away.”

It was Perera who started to undermine England as three wickets fell for 17 runs.

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“Going from 100 for one to 120 odd for four really cost us, hurt us – because we always felt we had just lost one too many wickets throughout our chase,” added Cook.

“That was frustrating. So were the 16 wides we bowled, and our first ten overs [with the ball].”

Cook’s new opening partner Moeen told a similar tale in his Sky Sports interview.

He said: “Obviously to get a hundred is nice, but we’re very disappointed to have lost the game.

“I feel good, I’m very happy opening the batting – and I feel like I can go out and express ­myself.”

His half-century came in just 25 balls, and the sixes and fours did not dry up either until he was sixth out with England on 203.

Moeen added: “I’ve struggled previously [after the powerplay ends] – I get a quick 40 or 50 and I get out.

“Today, when I slowed things down, I played and missed. So I just said to myself, ‘Keep playing’. I just play on instinct; I like to try to take the bowlers down.

“The plan was to stay in the game as long as we can, but we lost one or two wickets too many in that period. My personal plan was to keep going and stay ahead of the rate – not get scared just because we were losing wickets and change my tempo.”

It was a plan which nearly came off, and one that had the hosts just slightly troubled for a while, even with such a big total on the board.

“He [Moeen] was batting on a different pitch, I guess,” said captain Angelo Mathews.

“He was going for his shots. We dropped a couple of catches, and it proved costly.

“But I wasn’t too concerned, because I knew I had the bowling strength – especially with the spinners, and Thisara was also brilliant with those two wickets that got us back in the game.”

Cook and Mathews were central to a curiosity piece right at the start of England’s chase, in which the opener twice overturned the lbw verdicts of local umpire Ruchira Palliyaguruge – to survive on nought against his opposite number to the third and fourth balls he faced.

“I actually thought it was out – especially the second one – but unfortunately not,” Mathews said. “That’s the way it goes.”

Unsurprisingly, Cook saw things differently, adding: “I thought they were high.

“The first one, I was batting out of my crease, and Mo said the other one was exactly the same – so we reviewed that one as well.”

He added with a smile: “I’ve never done that before – and the ‘umps’ kind of had it in for me, I think. I don’t quite know what I did to upset him when we were fielding, but obviously, he was trying to get me out.”

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