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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Keaton Jennings savours 'special day' after century puts England on brink of victory over Sri Lanka

Opener ends two-year wait for his second ton as tourists set hosts an improbable 462-run victory target with two days remaining

Keaton Jennings raises his bat after reaching jis century for England against Sri Lanka. Getty Images
Keaton Jennings raises his bat after reaching jis century for England against Sri Lanka. Getty Images

Keaton Jennings said calculated risks were vital to producing his two-year wait for a second Test century as England close in on victory against Sri Lanka in the first Test in Galle.

Jennings hit a career-best 146 not out on Thursday as England declared their second innings on 322-6 to set Sri Lanka an improbable 462-run victory target.

The hosts ended Day 3 on 15 for no loss, 447 behind and staring at a crushing defeat inside four days in spinner Rangana Herath's farewell Test.

Openers Dimuth Karunaratne (seven) and Kaushal Silva (eight) survived seven overs but Sri Lanka will need a near miracle to save the Test.

Earlier, the tourists resumed on 38-0 and their openers consolidated their position until they suffered a mini-collapse.

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Debutant Rory Burns's (23) foolhardy pursuit of a non-existent single culminated in his run-out and Moeen Ali could not justify his promotion to No 3 for the second time in the match, following up his first-innings golden duck with three.

England captain Joe Root (three) also had a deja vu moment when Herath dismissed him for the second time in the match.

Jennings, however, looked confident against the spinners, often playing the sweep shot - both traditional and reverse - to negate them.

Ben Stokes, Jennings' partner in their 107-run fourth-wicket partnership, shrugged off his early tentativeness to clobber three sixes in his 62 before Dilruwan Perara spun one past his bat to hit the top of the off-stump with a beautiful delivery.

Jennings, who hit a hundred in his debut Test against India in 2016, took a single off Dhananjaya de Silva to end his century drought.

The 26-year-old pumped air while running before taking his helmet off and raising his bat in celebration.

The left-hander's patient 280-ball knock included nine fours as he demonstrated to his team mates how to play spin in the sub-continent.

Jos Buttler made 35 and England's first-innings hero Ben Foakes contributed 37 before Root decided to give his bowler a go at the Sri Lankan openers in fading light.

Herath claimed three wickets in his 93rd and final Test at the same venue where the 40-year-old left-arm spinner made his debut against Australia in 1999.

"It's been a very special day for me personally and it's special to be in such a good position in this Test match, hopefully we can go on and win it," Jennings said.

"It was about taking the risks at the right time, it felt like there was a ball in there that could get you out so it was that cat and mouse game, trying to get off strike, trying to put pressure on the bowler in order to get that bad ball. It's just a really, really pleasing day for the side.

"I suppose all you can do is try and score runs when you get the opportunity. At the end of the day, the summer was tough and performances weren't up to scratch, I'm happy to admit that.

"Hopefully now I can keep putting in performances that put us into match-winning positions."