PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - England captain Joe Root hit a brilliant century to put his team in a strong position in their quest for a series-clinching victory on the third day of the second test against Sri Lanka on Friday.
Opener Rory Burns had earlier struck his maiden fifty as England, who lead the three-match series 1-0 after last week’s win in Galle, reached 324 for nine in their second innings at stumps, a lead of 278 on a pitch offering plenty of turn.
Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, playing his second test, further stretched England’s lead after the dismissal of Root for 124 and was unbeaten on 51 with James Anderson four not out when bad light and rain brought an end to the day’s play.
Root and Foakes added 82 for the seventh wicket, dampening Sri Lanka’s hopes of restricting England’s lead to a manageable target at Pallekele after reducing them to 219-6 at one stage.
Akila Dananjaya, who was reported for a suspect bowling action after the Galle test but is free to play, notched up career-best figures of 6-106 but his third-five wicket haul in only his fifth test might still prove inadequate.
When play resumed in the morning, the tourists lost nightwatchman Jack Leach for one in the second over of the day, bringing regular openers Burns and Keaton Jennings together.
While Burns looked at ease against Sri Lanka’s spinners with his nimble footwork, Jennings opted to utilise the reverse sweep to thwart the threat.
The duo added 73 before Jennings’ most productive shot brought an end to his knock for 26, the ball clipping the batsman’s glove before carrying to the slip fielder Dhananjaya de Silva for a simple catch.
Burns, playing in his second test, hit seven boundaries in his knock and was out leg before for 59 to Malinda Pushpakumara while trying to sweep the left-arm spinner. The batsman reviewed the decision but was unsuccessful.
England suffered a further jolt in the next over when all-rounder Ben Stokes also fell leg before, for a duck, missing a sweep against off-spinner Dilruwan Perera.
Stokes, who faced just two deliveries, also opted to go for a review but lost it.
Root, who received a reprimand and one demerit point from the International Cricket Council on Thursday for a show of dissent, and Jos Buttler looked to attack the spinners during their stand of 74 to give England the upper hand.
Buttler’s entertaining knock of 34 came to a premature end when he dragged spinner Akila Dananjaya on to his stumps with an attempted reverse sweep.
Moeen Ali also did not last long and was out leg before to Dananjaya, but Root appeared unmoved by the fall of wickets around him.
He brought up a deserving 15th test hundred with 10 fours and two sixes in his knock, using the sweep shot to good effect against Sri Lanka’s slow bowling attack.
Root leapt for joy and punched the air after reaching the three-figure mark with a streaky boundary.
Dananjaya removed Root and Sam Curran, who smashed 64 in the first innings, in consecutive deliveries and also dismissed Adil Rashid, who was unfortunate to be given out lbw as replays showed he had got an edge.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by John O'Brien and Toby Davis