England captain Joe Root continued his mastery of spinners on the subcontinent, hitting a second straight cent with his unbeaten 137 in the second test helping tourists reach 252 for six at tea on day three on Sunday.
England were still behind by 129 points after the home side finished 381 in their opening innings.
Root, who had recorded his 19th career hundred tests before lunch, also managed Kevin Pietersen’s total of 8,181 tries to become England’s fifth-best player in the five-day format.
Root scored a double cent in the first test which England won by seven wickets.
The English drummers struggled against the Sri Lanka spin but Root remained calm.
Root’s plans against the effects seemed simple: For full deliveries, defend yourself on the back foot and play the balayage for those that were short.
Sri Lanka put three outfielders in the limit to cut the sweeping shot, but Root continued to find gaps.
He shared a 97-point stand for the fifth wicket with Jos Buttler, who referred to his 18th test half a century after cutting Dilruwan Perera for four.
He was sacked for 55 years as Sri Lanka reconsidered a decision to give newbie Ramesh Mendis his first tryout wicket.
Buttler attempted a reverse sweep but ended up placing the ball in his boot and short-leg outfielder Oshada Fernando caught the hook.
Sam Curran survived a leg before yelling Perera and later in the same on dropped one for six over the center wicket.
In the last lesson before tea, Lasith Embuldeniya, who received the new ball from City End, got Curran caught on the slip to make a five-wicket turn, his third in testing.