Keaton Jennings ended a 100-week wait for his second Test century with an unbeaten 146 putting England in total control of the first Test in Galle, Sri Lanka.
The hosts will have to set a new world-record chase to salvage to the Test in the fourth innings, requiring 462 to win after England captain Joe Root declared at 322-6.
England’s lead was built off Ben Foakes’ first innings hundred with opener Jennings following suit by hitting three figures for the first time since his debut in Mumbai two years ago. The Lancashire batsman spoke prior to the start of the Test about wanting to repay the faith of England selectors who stuck by him, and he did just that with a four-hour long stay at the crease.
Silencing his critics after a unconvincing Test summer, Jenning’s opening partnership of 60 alongside Rory Burns also eased concerns over a problem area for England.
Never truly finding a replacement for Andrew Strauss to partner Alastair Cook, England openers have put on first-wicket stands of more than 50 just seven times in the past 40 innings.
Once Burns was dismissed for 23, Jennings pushed on with Ben Stokes (62) to combine for 107 for the fourth wicket after Moeen Ali avoided a king pair but was shortly out for 3 batting at no.3.
Runs followed in the lower order from Jos Buttler (35) and Ben Foakes (37) before Root declared with seven overs remaining in the day’s play.
England’s late foray at Sri Lanka’s openers yielded no breakthrough to take into day four, when Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva will resume with the hosts 15-0.
First Test, Galle: England 342 & 322-6, Sri Lanka 203 & 15-0 –– Sri Lanka need 447 runs to win with 10 wickets remaining
Open: England 38-0, 12 overs (Burns 11, Jennings 26)
Lunch: England 111-3, 42 overs (Jennings 60, Stokes 14)
Tea: England 212-4, 73 overs (Jennings 98, Buttler 14)
Close: Sri Lanka 15-0, 7 overs (Karunaratne 7, Silva 8)