Sam Robson hit his maiden Test century before England lost three wickets for three runs on Saturday to finish the second day on 320-6 in its first innings with a 63-run lead over Sri Lanka in the second Test.
The 24-year old Robson went to tea on 98 and had to wait to reach a disciplined century from 220 balls and 11 fours.
“It’s pretty incredible. A special day,” Robson said of his 127. “I got off to a bit of a start last night and wanted to fight hard this morning to get us into a decent position.”
While Robson answered his critics with a century after making a combined 20 on his debut in the first Test, his opening batting partner and captain Alastair Cook did not. He went for 17 to Dhammika Prasad, 15 minutes after England had begun increasing its overnight total of 36-0 at Headingley in reply to Sri Lanka’s 257.
Cook played at a delivery across him from Prasad that should have been ignored and edged through to Kumar Sangakkara at first slip. He only added three runs to his own overnight score.
Ballance came out and alongside Robson put on 142 for the second wicket, before Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews got his first dismissal of the day shortly before tea. He enticed an edge from Ballance on 74, with wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal taking the catch.
Nuwan Pradeep removed Robson with a new ball delivery that weaved back inside to crash into off stump. Ian Bell, who had brought up his 41st test half century on his 100th England appearance, then became Shaminda Eranga’s first wicket of the day. He edged through to Chandimal, and it was a dismissal that rejuvenated Sri Lanka’s bowling attack as England went from 311-3 to 313-6.
Joe Root, who had made 13, went next with the score still on 311. Chandimal again took the catch, this time for his captain Mathews.
Moeen Ali followed after contributing only two runs, edging the lively Eranga behind for Chandimal’s third catch of the session.
Mathews could have had a third wicket, but missed a tough caught and bowled opportunity to remove Matt Prior on 0. He managed to get his right hand to a low shot from Prior, but could not grasp it with his body weight going to his left.
Prior (3) and Chris Jordan (4) made it to stumps at the crease but Robson predicted England will strengthen its lead on Sunday.
“Losing a few wickets at the end can happen with a new ball,” he said. “We’re really positive, we’re happy with the day. If we can bat well tomorrow morning and get through that early period, we will be confident of winning this match.”