Angelo Mathews scored a patient unbeaten century to dig Sri Lanka out of some early peril and lead his side to 4-229 on the opening day of the second and final Test against England.
The home side won the toss and elected to bat at Galle International Stadium, but a double strike from seamer James Anderson with the new ball had them teetering at 2-7.
But Mathews then came to the crease and settled the innings with his 11th Test ton and first at Sri Lanka’s most iconic venue.
He will resume on the second morning on 107 not out, compiled from 228 balls with 11 fours, and will be joined at the wicket by Niroshan Dickwella on 19.
“We had to see through a few overs and get the ball slightly older to score some runs,” Mathews told reporters at the close.
“Credit must go to the England bowlers. It was hot and humid and they gave nothing away.
“They set a field that we could not score off easily. The fast bowlers had good line and length. We don’t know what a good score is. Just as many as we can get.”
Mathews scored 71 in Sri Lanka’s second innings in the first Test and says playing back-to-back games at the same venue has its advantages.
“I got into a rhythm in the second innings of the first Test, so I thought if I can get a start I’m not going to give it away,” he said.
“I had to work extremely hard. They (England) gave us nothing, but we are 4-229 and we cannot give it away now.”
England’s all-time leading wicket taker Anderson produced the early goods, having replaced Stuart Broad in a rotation of the seam attack, the only change from their seven-wicket win in the first test.
Fiery home opener Kusal Perera had a wild swing at a delivery outside off stump and was caught by Joe Root high above his head at first slip for 6.
Oshada Fernando (0), who came into the side for Kusal Mendis, lasted just four balls before edging a rising Anderson delivery that he could have left onto the wicket.
Mathews and opener Lahiru Thirimanne (43) put on 69 for the third wicket before the latter edged Anderson’s second ball after lunch to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.
Captain Dinesh Chandimal (52) added another 117 with Mathews before he was trapped leg before wicket by fast bowler Mark Wood, who managed to produce reverse swing early in the innings and toiled away for 17 overs and figures of 1-47.
England will be disappointed with some of the lines they bowled, particularly the spin duo of Dom Bess and Jack Leach, who conceded 120 in 40 overs and failed to create much in the way of chances.
The tourists are seeking to notch a fifth away test victory in a row for the first time since 1913.
They travel to India for four matches immediately after this series.