PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka: England opener Rory Burns struck his maiden half-century before Sri Lanka’s spinners fought back with two quick wickets shortly before lunch on the third day of the second test to leave the match evenly poised on Friday.
England, who lead the three-match series 1-0 after last week’s win in Galle, reached 131 for four, a lead of 85, in their second innings after an action-packed first session.
Captain Joe Root was unbeaten on 26 with Jos Buttler 14 not out at the break with the hosts hoping to restrict England to a modest total if they are to square the series at Pallekele, having to bat last on a turning track.
The touring side 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 for the reverse sweep to thwart the threat.
The duo added 77 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 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 Buttler looked to attack the spinners during the remainder of the session in an attempt to extend their lead.