Keaton Jennings scored his second Test and batted for 280 balls to remain unbeaten on 146.
Keaton Jennings scored his second Test and batted for 280 balls to remain unbeaten on 146.

England declared their second innings at 322/6, setting Sri Lanka a target of 462 runs and over two days to play out on day three in the 1st Test at Galle on Thursday.

Keaton Jennings scored his second Test and batted for 280 balls to remain unbeaten on 146. In reply, Sri Lanka had to negotiate nine overs, which the openers Dimuth Karunaratne (7*) and Kaushal Silva (8*) managed to do taking their team to 15/0, 447 adrift of the target.

Earlier, Jennings got to his hundred after tea and with the help of Ben Foakes, the first innings centurion added some quick runs scoring 61 runs in under 10 overs to get a move one. Jos Buttler and Jennings had added 77 runs for the fifth wicket, before Buttler was picked up by Rangana Herath for 35.

Foakes added 37 off 34 before being caught in the deep off Akila Dananjaya.

At the tea interval, England progressed to 212 for the loss of four wickets, with 101 runs scored in the second session, that saw Sri Lanka remove Ben Stokes for their only success after the allrounder had completed his 15th Test fifty.

England upped the pace with Stokes and Jennings building on their partnership. The two put together 107 runs for the fourth wicket with Stokes taking spinner Akila Dhananjaya for two sixes and a four in two overs. He tried to hit the spinners out of the attack with lifted hits and attempted at derailing them with the occasional reverse sweep. There was a sense of urgency in Stokes’ batting, and having escaped a couple of close chances, he was cleaned up by a ripped from Dilruwan Perera – the ball pitching outside leg and spinning enough to clip Stokes’ off stump.

Sri Lanka, despite the wicket, failed to seize the initiative. Jos Buttler was on 11 when he stepped down to Perera but failed to connect properly. But as the ball went between bat and pad, and Buttler trying to hoick one over long-on, Niroshan Dickwella failed to grab the ball and affect what could have been a regular stumping chance. Buttler hammered a six down the ground to take England past 200. Jennings continued to play a measured knock, except the audacious reverse-sweeps he tried in the 80s and 90s.

Earlier, a disciplined piece of bowling from Sri Lanka saw them pick up three wickets for 73 runs in the opening session. The wickets to fall on in that session included that of Rory Burns, Moeen Ali and England captain Joe Root.

England, resuming the day at 38 for no loss, were in no hurry to score runs and were tied down by Dilruwan Perera and Suranga Lakmal. The fact that Sri Lanka’s bowling was tight can be gauged by the fact that the first boundary was scored when play entered the final 30 minutes of the session. England’s openers crossed 50 when Burns was run-out by a direct him and had to head back.

Moeen Ali and Joe Root endured low scores, and once Sri Lanka sent them both packing in a span of seven runs and five overs, it marked their small comeback in the match. Moeen miscued Dilruwan to Rangana Herath at mid-on. Herath then returned to remove Root who offered a thin edge to wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella.

A that stage, England were ahead by just over 200 runs and Sri Lanka had a chance to break through. But Jennings was firm at his end, and he banished the disappointment of a mediocre series against India by bringing up a half-century off 111 balls. He was joined by Stokes and the allrounder gave Jennings positive company. And while Stokes wasn’t fluent by all means, he absorbed 29 balls and looked somewhat assured compared to the other batsmen.