London: Gary Ballance`s maiden Test century saw England carry out the "instructions" of discarded batting great Kevin Pietersen almost to the letter in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Lord`s on Sunday.
Zimbabwe-born Ballance, promoted to number three in only his second Test, made 104 after England had slumped to 121 for six in their second innings.
But by stumps the 24-year-old Yorkshire left-hander had guided England to a total of 267 for eight and a lead of 389.
That left Sri Lanka needing to surpass the highest fourth innings total to win a Test at Lord`s -- 344 for one, requiring 342, by the West Indies against England in 1984 -- if they were to go 1-0 up in this two-match series.
England captain Alastair Cook, will now likely declare before play begins on Monday`s fifth and final day in a bid to give his bowlers a full 90 overs to take all 10 of Sri Lanka`s second-innings wickets.
Prior to Sunday`s play, Pietersen -- axed by England after their 5-0 Ashes series loss in Australia -- tweeted: "Going to Lord`s today. "Want to see SL out 460 & ENG bat positively to a 380 lead then declare...entertain today pls, Cook`s men!"
Pietersen was in the Grandstand at Lord`s to see Sri Lanka bowled out for 453 in reply to England`s first innings 575 for nine declared.
But it needed a fine knock from Ballance, whose previous Test-best was the 23 he made in the first innings of this match, and good support from debutant all-rounder Chris Jordan in a seventh-wicket stand of 78 to turn the tide.
Ballance went to his century in the grand manner with a six off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath in the last over of the day.
"It`s just a great feeling. I can`t really describe it," said Ballance. "It`s just very special, and I`m over the moon."
Some batsmen in sight of a first Test hundred -- and one at Lord`s as well -- might have been happy to `get there in singles`.
But Ballance himself had a simple explanation for his bold approach.
"With one over to go, I needed three -- and I didn`t want to nurdle around in singles.
"So I thought I`d go with a slog-sweep and luckily it came out of the middle.
"I thought `if there`s a chance to get a hundred tonight, why not try to get it tonight?"`
Ballance`s innings was made all the more special for him by being played in front of his close family.
"I had my parents and my brother fly over from Zimbabwe a few days ago. "It`s special to score this hundred in front of them."
Ballance did have a worrying moment when Sri Lanka appealed for a catch behind off Shaminda Eranga when he was on 36.
But the on-field decision went in his favour, as did Sri Lanka`s review.
"I was confident I hadn`t hit it," said Ballance. "But with DRS (the decision review system), you never really know, do you?
"My heart was in my mouth a bit, but I was pretty confident."
Meanwhile Sri Lanka middle-order batsman Lahiru Thirimanne was optimistic the tourists could save the game on Monday.
"The wicket is still very good, so we are hoping to bat well tomorrow."