Joe Root ton puts England on top in Pallekele

Joe Root's 15th century rescued England from a precarious position at four for 109 to finish the day 324 for nine, thereby helping take a second-innings lead of 278 runs with one wicket still in hand.

Joe Root celebrates his 15th Test century.   -  Getty Images

Captain Joe Root smashed 124 and newcomer Ben Foakes again hit valuable tail-end runs to put England in command of the second Test against Sri Lanka on Friday.

England reached 324 for nine -- a second-innings lead of 278 -- when bad light stopped play for the day at Kandy.

Foakes was batting on 51 alongside James Anderson on four.

Spinner Akila Danajanya, whose action is under investigation by the International Cricket Council, claimed six wickets on the turning pitch.

He trapped Root lbw and then bowled Sam Curran for nought with his next ball. Adil Rashid thwarted the hat-trick but soon fell to Dananjaya's guile for two.

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It was Dananjaya's third five-wicket haul in just his fifth Test, but he must rush to Australia after the this Test for an ICC examination of his bowling.

His six-wicket haul could, however, not stop Root and Foakes from taking England to a sizeable lead.

Root reached his 15th Test ton soon after tea, making the sweep and reverse sweep valuable weapons, as he hit 10 fours and two sixes in his 146-ball knock.

Root said he enjoyed making the runs despite the pressure.

“That's what it should be. You shouldn't feel pressure like the pressure is too much for you, you should enjoy the occasion and make the most of the opportunity in front of you,” he said after the day's play.

“The whole group managed to harness that today and make the most of it.”

Root raised his bat to a standing ovation from travelling English fans who also lauded Foakes.

Root made an 82-run seventh-wicket stand with Foakes, who reached his fifty with a six off Dilruwan Perera. The hit turned out to be the last ball of the day with dark clouds gathering and thunder heard in the distance.

'Attack best form of defence'

As he did in his sparkling century on his Test debut in the opening game of the series, Foakes mixed caution and aggression to propel England to a big score in the second innings.

Every one of England's top seven batsmen were out attempting a sweep of some description.

Jos Buttler dragged one of Dananjaya's deliveries onto his stumps while trying to reverse sweep on 34. Moeen Ali was trapped lbw for 10 after failing to connect with an attempted sweep.

“From my point of view, it was almost a safer shot than playing the forward defensive,” said Root.

“With the amount the ball was turning there's a lot of risk involved in that. At times attack is the best form of defence on a wicket like that.”

Earlier, left-hander Rory Burns registered his maiden Test half-century in his fourth innings in the format. He was trapped lbw off Malinda Pushpakumara for 59.

Jack Leach, the night-watchman, didn't last long on the third morning. He was trapped leg-before by Dilruwan Perera in the second over of the day.

Burns then put together 73 runs for the second wicket with Keaton Jennings, who made 26, to steady the innings and help England overcome its 46-run deficit.

“I think the temptation with a deficit like that going into the second innings is to play within your shell and be a bit insular but the guys went out and set the tone at top of the order,” said Root.

“It was really pleasing to see inexperienced guys as Test cricketers really set the benchmark for the rest of the group, a really good platform for us.

“Hopefully we still stretch the lead further and that should be a good chase on this surface.”