London: Jonny Bairstow rode his luck to again rescue England from a top-order collapse with a century on the first day of the third Test against Sri Lanka at Lord’s on Thursday.
At stumps, England were 279 for six, having been 84 for four when Bairstow (107 not out) came to the crease.
It had been a similar story when Bairstow revived England from the depths of 83 for five in the first Test with a superb 140 on his Headingley home ground in a match England eventually won by an innings and 88 runs.
Rather than scoring a maiden Test century at Lord’s, Bairstow should have been out for 11 on Thursday when he clipped Nuwan Pradeep firmly off his pads straight to mid-wicket only for Shaminda Eranga to drop the catch.
The Yorkshireman had another break when Eranga, selected despite having his action reported in England’s series-clinching nine-wicket win in the second Test at the Riverside, reviewed a rejected lbw appeal when the batsman had made 56.
Replays showed the ball hitting leg stump, but not enough, according to the Decision Review System, to overturn Indian umpire S Ravi’s original not out decision.
– ‘Amazing’ -For Bairstow there was a sense of relief in scoring his maiden Test hundred at Lord’s — and getting his name on the honours board — after making 95 at ‘the home of cricket’ against South Africa in 2012.
“It’s pretty amazing,” he told Sky Sports.
“After coming five short against South Africa in 2012, it’s been a tough four years, but I’m on the board.
“It’s a really special moment and I was pretty emotional.”
Apart from Bairstow, only England captain Alastair Cook (85), who won the toss in sunny conditions ideal for batting, passed fifty on Thursday, with Chris Woakes 23 not out at stumps.
Sri Lanka performed admirably with the ball, albeit they were again sloppy in the field, on a good pitch where there was a touch of seam movement.
Suranga Lakmal and Pradeep shared four wickets while impressive left-arm spinner Rangana Herath rook an economical two for 45 in 21 overs.
“Apart from the one chance we dropped, the guys bowled really well and we had a good day altogether,” Herath told BBC Radio’s Test Match Special.
“There is something for the bowlers but it’s still a batting wicket and Bairstow has continued his super form.”
England had already won this three-Test series at 2-0 up.
Cook who last time out became the first England batsman to score 10,000 Test runs, and fellow opener Alex Hales compiled a serene fifty stand in 74 balls.
But Herath struck with just his fourth ball when Hales (18), slogging across the line of a ball that turned, was caught by Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews at slip.
By his own admission, Nick Compton was playing for his Test place.
But England’s number three, on his Middlesex home ground, fell for one when he was caught behind off a gentle Lakmal away-swinger.
Lakmal struck again when he had Joe Root (three) lbw,
And when Pradeep bowled James Vince (10), England were 84 for four.
Left-handed opener Cook was closing in on his 29th Test century when, shortly before tea, he was plumb lbw to Pradeep.
Cook faced 173 balls, including nine fours.
Moeen Ali, fresh from his Test-best 155 not out at the Riverside, followed Hales in falling to the Herath/Mathews combination for 25.
Bairstow, strong off his pads and on the drive, cut Pradeep for four to go to 94 before a single off Herath saw him to a 160-ball century.