Joe Root made a fluent century, hitting 124 off 146 balls.
Sri Lanka vs England: We’ve given ourselves a great chance, says centurion Joe Root
Joe Root made a fluent century, hitting 124 off 146 balls. @AFP

England lead by 278 runs with one second-innings wicket remaining at the close of the third day’s play against Sri Lanka  at Pallekele, giving centurion Joe Root hope of a first Test series win in the country since 2001.

Root scored his 15th Test hundred, and second in Asia, as the visitors ended the day on 329/8 when bad light and rain forced an early close.

“That was a thoroughly enjoyable one today,” Root told Sky Sports after stumps. “Obviously quite challenging on that surface. We ask the guys to play in a certain manner in these conditions, you want to set an example and you want to lead from the front. When it comes off as it has today, that’s really pleasing.

You look at the group of players we’ve got, it suits most of the guys’ natural games. You’ve got to play to your advantage and we’ve done that this tour so far with the bat. We’ve given ourselves a chance in this game.”

Root made 124 from 146 balls, playing Sri Lanka’s spinners in a manner that moved Mike Atherton to term the innings as one of Root’s best.

“To start I felt a bit all over the place,” said Root. “I felt quite calm underneath but the legs were flapping on the outside. It’s about taking a few risks early, get the bowlers bowling in the areas you want them to bowl in. As the innings went on, you sort of figure out a really good method of how to play on that surface.

The best thing about it was, we kept the score going at a really good rate. The temptation is to go into your shell and think, it’s going to be really hard, this, but the guys played with a lot of freedom and a lot of courage.”

On a wearing pitch on which Sri Lanka’s spinner Akila Dananjaya today claimed six wickets, Root was unsure if England had enough runs on the board.

“It’s hard to say,” he said. “It’ll be interesting how the pitch plays with this amount of rain. Whether it spins a bit more, or holds together a bit more. The most important thing is we recognise how it’s going to be like and adapt very quickly. We might have to be a little bit more patient and attack the stumps a little bit more often.”