Sri Lanka battled hard in response to England’s big total on the second day of the third Test at Lord’s.
The tourists, who have struggled with the bat in losing the first two Tests, reached 162-1 in friendly conditions.
Kaushal Silva finished unbeaten on 79 and Dimuth Karunaratne, dropped by Jonny Bairstow on 28, made 50.
Bairstow earlier was left on 167 not out, the second highest Test score by an England wicketkeeper, while Chris Woakes added 66 in the hosts’ 416.
Still, that is no more than par on a placid Lord’s surface. Indeed, the average first-innings score in Tests on this ground in the past decade is 416.
The nature of the wicket and the solid start they have made will give Sri Lanka hope of at least prolonging a four-match undefeated streak at Lord’s that dates back to 1991.
Sri Lanka show their mettle
In their first three innings of the series, Sri Lanka managed to bat no longer than 43.3 overs in conditions favourable to England’s pace attack in Leeds and Durham.
At Lord’s, however, buoyed by their second-innings 475 in Chester-le-Street, the tourists enjoyed the comparative lack of movement in the air and off the seam.
Showing a greater intent to score, rather than just survive, and running well, opening pair Silva and Karunaratne added 108 for the first wicket.
After Karunaratne was caught down the leg side off Steven Finn, Silva, strong through the off side, received stout support from Kusal Mendis in an unbroken partnership of 54.
Bairstow blighted by keeping errors…
The England attack, so rampant earlier in the series, stuck to their task and were willing to experiment with cutters and catchers in front of the bat.
They were not helped by wicketkeeper Bairstow, who dropped a straightforward chance from Woakes’ first delivery of the day.
Left-hander Karunaratne offered the thinnest of edges that did not require Bairstow to move, but the ball hit his left glove and bounced away.
The Yorkshireman, in imperious form with the bat, has now dropped three catches and missed a stumping in the series.
“You don’t get an easier catch than that,” said former England captain Michael Vaughan on Test Match Special. “He’s batting so well but he does keep dropping chances behind the stumps.”
…but batting brilliantly
Still, England have been indebted to Bairstow’s runs. A century in the first Test at Headingley rescued the hosts from 83-5 and here he batted through the remainder of the innings after arriving at 84-4.
Unbeaten on 107 overnight, the right-hander continued to accumulate with late cuts and rapid running for his highest Test score and third in excess of 140 in his past six matches.
Woakes too had the chance for a maiden Test century, but frustration in the face of left-arm spinner Rangana Herath’s leg-stump line eventually resulted in a tame pat back to the bowler.
England’s final three wickets fell for 20 runs, leaving Bairstow one run shy of the highest score by a wicketkeeper in a Test at Lord’s, the 168 by West Indies’ Clyde Walcott in 1950.
What they said
England all-rounder Chris Woakes: “[When Jonny Bairstow dropped Karunaratne] I was spewing, but it happens – it did wobble a bit on him. We put on a great partnership together – it was a shame that I threw it away. It’s going to be tough [to get 20 wickets], but we believe that we can.”
Sri Lanka batsman Kaushal Silva: “It was a tough one-and-a-half days for us – we bowled very well but things didn’t go our way. But when we came out to bat we tried to be positive and that helped to get us in this position. Tomorrow if we bat well and get a good total, there will be help for our spinners to do something with this wicket.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “It’s level pegging after days one and two. I’d still rather have the runs on the board – just.
“Sri Lanka will need a big, big score to put England under pressure. But well played. They have played beautifully.”
Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott: “We know Bairstow and Jos Buttler are not specialist keepers. There is no great wicketkeeper pushing them, so England are picking batsmen who keep wicket.
“England have two world-class batters, but the others have huge questions marks. England can’t afford a wicketkeeper who can’t bat.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “Bairstow’s confidence is so high with his batting, you hope that can rub off on his keeping. If the selectors took the gloves off him, what might that do to his batting?”
The stats you need to know
- Jonny Bairstow has made 594 Test runs in 2016 at an average of 118.8, and 1,127 first-class runs at an average of 102.45
- His 167 is the second highest score by a wicketkeeper at Lord’s, behind Clyde Walcott’s 168 for West Indies in 1950
- It also the second highest score by an England wicketkeeper, after the 173 made by Alec Stewart against New Zealand in Auckland in 1997
- Silva and Karunaratne shared Sri Lanka’s first half-century opening stand of the series, and first century opening stand in any Test since January 2014
- Kaushal Silva has made a half-century in his first three innings at Lord’s, the first visiting batsman to do so since West Indies’ Roy Fredericks in 1973