GALLE, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka face the daunting task of batting out two days to save the first test against England after being set an improbable target of 462 and finishing day three on 15 without loss on Thursday.
Sri Lanka's record of never having lost a test in Galle is in jeopardy.
England declared its second innings on 322-6, and opener Keaton Jennings was unbeaten on 146.
Jennings batted for more than six hours, faced 280 deliveries and hit nine fours for a second test century since his first on debut two years ago.
"I want to give a really big thank you to the people that have stuck with me, that have helped me over the last 18 months, that have backed me through some tough times, waking up in the middle of the night stressing, panicking. I am just really happy to be sitting here in a position where we can win the game," Jennings said.
He was well supported by allrounder Ben Stokes, who hit 62 in a stand of 107 for the fourth wicket as England dominated the day.
After the dismissal of Stokes, Jennings added 74 for the fifth wicket with Jos Buttler (35) and 61 for the sixth wicket with Ben Foakes (37).
Sri Lanka a missed a stumping chance off Buttler when he was on 11.
With the game slipping away, Sri Lanka set up a defensive field.
Vice-captain Suranga Lakmal stepped in to the leadership role after captain Dinesh Chandimal was forced off the field with a groin injury. Sri Lanka management said Chandimal will bat in the second innings but they could lose the services of the captain for the series.
Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath, playing his last test, finished with two wickets apiece. Herath was given a standing ovation by the packed house, mostly England fans, as he walked off the field.
His three wickets in the test have lifted him to 433 all time, two above New Zealand great Richard Hadlee in the top 10.
Sri Lanka openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva saw off the seven overs in the final session.
In Sri Lanka's first innings, it lasted barely two sessions — 68 overs — in scoring 203. Three days into the test, the pitch is turning, and not in its favor.
"When you look at the three days so far, I'm not sure there will be a huge change over the next two," Sri Lanka spin bowling coach Piyal Wijetunga said.
"We know that it does spin a little more on the last two days because it is dry here. There is a big challenge, but it's not the kind of wicket we usually see in Galle. If the batsmen do their duty, the 440-odd that we need will be tough, but it's not impossible."
The highest fourth-innings total in Sri Lanka is 397 made by New Zealand in 2009 at Sinhalese Sports Club in a losing cause. The highest successful run chase was 391 by Sri Lanka in 2017 against Zimbabwe at R. Premadasa Stadium.
The highest fourth-innings total in Galle was 300 by Pakistan in 2012, also in a losing cause.
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