Alastair Cook hit 15 boundaries in his patient 164-ball knock at Lord's
England recovered after a shaky start to enjoy marginally the better of an enthralling opening day to the second Test against Sri Lanka at Lord's, reaching 342-6 at the close.
After losing the toss and being put into bat, England skipper Andrew Strauss faced just 12 balls before he was trapped lbw for four, quickly followed back to the pavilion by Jonathan Trott and the out-of-form Kevin Pietersen to leave England in a perilous position at 22-3.
But a fourth-wicket stand of 108 between Ian Bell and Alastair Cook gradually swung the balance the home side's way.
And, after Cook had been removed four short of his 18th Test hundred, Eoin Morgan and Matt Prior made hay in the evening sun with a partnership of 101 - a record for England's sixth wicket against Sri Lanka.
Morgan's 128-ball 79 was particularly impressive, with the Middlesex man smashing two sixes off the spinners and looking assured against the seamers until he failed to get his bat on an inswinger from Suranga Lakmal (3-79) and was out leg-before.
That wicket, taken with the new ball half an hour before the close, was a fillip for Sri Lanka, but a quick-fire stand of 40 between Prior and Stuart Broad at the end of the day ensured Strauss will sleep easier than his opposite number Tillakaratne Dilshan.
“England are ahead at the moment but only just. If you win the toss and insert you are generally saying a pitch is going to do plenty and bowl a side out in a day. At 22-3 Sri Lanka were looking at bowling England out below 300 but this is an ordinary bowling attack. They got wickets with the new ball that but they haven't managed to break Broad and Prior. Cook carried on in his Bradmanesque ways, while Morgan and Prior underlined their talent and value to the middle order, taking the attack to the opposition”
The Sri Lanka skipper's decision to put England in may well have been motivated by a desire to avoid exposing his batting line-up, just four days after their
collapse and innings defeat in the first Test in Cardiff,
but it was initially vindicated as Strauss played across the line to a straight ball from the recalled Chanaka Welegedara in the third over.
Trott, whose double century in the first Test took his career average to a remarkable 66.77, fell in almost identical fashion as he was rapped on the knee-roll by a Lakmal delivery that would have hit leg stump.
Moments later, England were three down, when the struggling Pietersen slashed loosely at a wideish ball from Lakmal and was superbly pouched by Dilshan, diving to his right in the gully.
Bell pulled his first ball for four but looked shaky thereafter as an edge fell just short of first slip and a loose drive almost resulted in the shattering of his stumps.
The Warwickshire man, occasionally accused of going missing when England need him most, remained positive and unfurled a pair of characteristically elegant cover drives through the offside as he and Cook gradually wrested the initiative from the tourists in steering the hosts to 75-3 at lunch.
After the break, with Bell still showing occasional vulnerability when leaving outside off stump, Cook took on the role of aggressor, leaning into two crisp drives and bringing up his 25th Test fifty with two successive pulls for four off Dilhara Fernando.
Prior's 83-ball knock gave England fresh impetus in the final session
Bell reached his own landmark shortly afterwards, with a single that also took the partnership to 100.
But just when the duo looked to be bedding in for the rest of the day, Bell succumbed to a lazy stroke, wafting his bat at a ball angled across him from Welegedara and nicking it into the hands of Tharanga Paranavitana at first slip.
Morgan, eager for a big innings to cement his place at number six, did not waste any time in finding his feet, as he clattered Welegedara straight down the ground for four and lofted Rangana Herath for a huge six over long-on.
With Morgan taking a back seat after tea, Cook worked the boundary rope with some trademark square cuts to take himself into the nineties.
Another century - his third successive Test ton - looked inevitable for the prolific Essex opener until, on 96, he endeavoured to bring up three figures in style, pulling at a ball from Fernando that was not really short enough and top-edging a simple catch to Farveez Maharoof at midwicket.
From then on it was the Morgan and Prior show, with Dubliner Morgan treating the crowd to his second six, sounding a wake-up call to the Lord's members as the ball crashed into the bottom tier of the pavilion.
Prior seemed to take his lead from the left-hander, scoring heavily on his favoured off side to reach fifty from 64 balls.
And although Morgan's late dismissal took some of the shine off England's performance, the form of the Sussex wicketkeeper (73 not out) suggested the hosts could yet post a total well in excess of 400, which would put them in control of the match.