Captain Joe Root scored an unbeaten 168 as England built a substantial lead over Sri Lanka on the second day of the first Test in Galle.
Debutant Dan Lawrence made 73, adding 173 with Root to help the tourists close on 320-4, a lead of 185.
Although rain allowed only 53 overs in the day – the start was delayed by 70 minutes and no play was possible after tea – Root and Lawrence batted into England a position of total dominance.
Root played beautifully for his 18th Test century, his first since November 2019.
He will resume on Saturday alongside Jos Buttler, who is unbeaten on seven, and will be aiming to declare and bat only once on a pitch that is already breaking up and offering increasing turn and bounce.
Play will start 15 minutes earlier at 04:15 GMT on Saturday.
Root backs up pre-series words
Root is often compared to India’s Virat Kohli, Australia’s Steve Smith and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson as England’s lynchpin, but he can fail to capitalise on starts in comparison.
Having reached 50 four times since his previous century, he said before this series series he needed to be “selfish” and turn starts into “big match-winning contributions”, but “something big is around the corner”.
He was proved right on Friday.
He overturned an lbw decision on 20 on day one, and survived a lbw review, when he was outside the line, off the second ball of day two, but it has been a chanceless innings.
Root, unbeaten on 66 overnight, has a natural strike-rate makes him a dangerous Test player, and he was happy to rotate the strike and allow Lawrence to find the boundary with more ease.
The sweep has always been one of Root’s strengths, and he played it superbly throughout his 254-ball innings, both to find the boundary and to rotate the strike as he surpassed Kevin Pietersen’s 151 in Colombo in 2012 as the highest score by an England player in Sri Lanka.
At the start of a busy year that includes nine Tests home and away against India, potentially two against world number one side New Zealand and a bid to regain the Ashes in Australia, this has so far been the perfect start for Root and England.
New boy Lawrence seizes opportunity
Lawrence has had to wait for an opportunity since impressing on the England Lions tour of Australia early last year, with England winning their past three Test series and having a settled batting line-up.
The Essex batsman arrived at the crease nine balls into the day after Jonny Bairstow, who failed to add to his overnight 47, was caught at second slip off slow left-armer Lasith Embuldeniya.
Lawrence averages 63.5 against spin in first-class cricket and his confidence against it was evident immediately as took a single off his first ball before driving his second to the cover boundary.
The 23-year-old continued to look strong on the off side, hitting behind square numerous times, and as his innings grew he looked more at ease all around the wicket, striking the game’s only six over mid-wicket.
He was dropped twice – on 60 when Kusal Mendis at second slip failed to hold on to a leading edge off Wanindu Hasaranga, and on 68 when he charged Embuldeniya and an edge was put down by wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella.
Lawrence eventually fell when Dilruwan Perera found sharp turn and bounce from round the wicket to have him taken at short leg via the glove.
With Root, who also made 73 on Test debut, and head coach Chris Silverwood always speaking about wanting squad depth, they will be pleased with Lawrence’s first innings at the highest level.