YORKSHIRE’S Jonny Bairstow took centre stage again, but this time on a decidedly mixed second day for him and England against Sri Lanka at Lord’s.
The accolades were all Bairstow’s after the wicketkeeper-batsman consolidated the hundred he completed the previous evening by finishing unbeaten on a Test-best 167 out of 416 all out.
But England’s hopes of pushing for a 3-0 Investec series whitewash then receded after the Yorkshireman dropped a straightforward chance, which reprieved opener Dimuth Karunaratne on 28.
The tourists’ reply was 49 without loss at that stage – and although Bairstow eventually took the catch down the leg-side off Steven Finn to see off the left-hander, by stumps the total was 162-1.
Kaushal Silva (79 not out) and Karunaratne (50) put on 108, and then Kusal Mendis provided further Sri Lankan solidity in another unbroken half-century stand to put England’s own efforts with the bat into new context.
Bairstow’s day had begun much more positively, in a partnership of 144 with Chris Woakes (66) – who also hit a career-best – to help England towards a par total after choosing to bat on a docile pitch.
Despite the continuation of Bairstow’s brilliant form with his first hundred at HQ, the hosts had arguably under-performed on day one.
On the resumption, however, their seventh-wicket pair ensured more substantial gains.
Woakes registered his maiden Test half-century, and shortly after his dismissal – chipping a return catch back to Rangana Herath (4-81) – Bairstow’s leg-glance for four off Angelo Mathews took him past his previous best of 150no.
He already had the highest score by any England wicketkeeper at this venue and by the time his ninth first-class innings of the summer ended only because he ran out of partners, he had taken his season’s tally to an impressive 888.
Woakes reached his 50, from 102 balls, with his seventh boundary – flashed past point off Shaminda Eranga.
He and Bairstow then pushed England’s series aggregate for the sixth and seventh wickets, in just three innings, beyond 500 runs.
Woakes bowed out half-an-hour before lunch, and Stuart Broad in early afternoon when he cut Suranga Lakmal (3-90) to gully.
Finn and Bairstow then each had a close call.
The tailender overturned an lbw on review when he had made only one, the delivery from Herath depicted sliding down the slope past leg-stump.
Then on 157, Bairstow edged Lakmal at catchable height for four between the wicketkeeper and a wide first slip.
Finn became Herath’s fourth victim anyway, mistiming a sweep to be well-caught by Lakmal at deep backward-square, and James Anderson was last out to the deserving Eranga, edging behind on the back foot.
It was minimal consolation for the bowler, who dropped Bairstow on only 11 the previous day and watched him go on to bat for approaching seven hours and hit 18 boundaries along the way.
Bairstow was soon the one who could only hope his mistake did not prove so costly, after letting Woakes down when he dropped Karunaratne off the first ball of the all-rounder’s spell.
Both openers had their 50s when Finn struck after tea, each with seven boundaries along the way.
There was precious little encouragement for the home attack either, save the occasional delivery that turned for Mooen Ali. After only five wickets in 88 overs, England will know they can ill-afford to pass up any more opportunities if they are to take another 19 in the time available over the next three days. Bairstow observed at his stumps press conference on Thursday that more catches are sure to be dropped, nor was it his fault Eranga missed the one from which he profited so significantly.
Twenty-four hours on, there was an added resonance to both remarks.