England skipper Joe Root closed in on an attacking century to counter Sri Lanka’s spin and push the tourists’ second-innings lead to 213 in the second Test on Friday.
Root took on the spin challenge to remain unbeaten on 98 off 118 deliveries as he hit seven fours and two towering sixes on day three on a deteriorating Kandy pitch.
The tourists were 259 for six at tea with Ben Foakes, on 19, batting alongside Root, who technically came in at the rotating number three spot after Jack Leach opened batting with Rory Burns on Thursday.
The star batsman built crucial partnerships including a 74-run fifth wicket stand with Jos Buttler, who made 34. England lead the three-match series 1-0.
Root, along with other England batsmen, used the sweep and reverse sweep to great effect despite Akila Dananjaya taking two of his three wickets in a fast-paced second session of play.
Buttler dragged one of Dananjaya’s mystery spin deliveries onto his stumps while trying to reverse sweep. Moeen Ali was trapped lbw for 10 after failing to connect with an attempted sweep.
But Root, who registered his 42nd Test fifty, went to tea just two runs away from his 15th hundred, having faced 118 balls. Earlier the left-handed Burns, who is playing just his second international match, registered his maiden Test half-century before being trapped lbw off Malinda Pushpakumara for 59.
Perera had wasted little time in sending nightwatchman Leach back to the pavilion for one in just the second over of the day. Burns then put together 73 runs for the second wicket with Keaton Jennings, who made 26, to steady the innings and help England overcome their 46-run deficit.