Gary Ballance struggled at first to find the words to describe what it was like to score his maiden Test century at Lord's.

He would settle eventually on "brilliant" and "over the moon".

Playing in only his second Test match, Ballance made an unbeaten 104 to help England close the penultimate day on 267 for eight in their second innings and with a lead of 389 over Sri Lanka. Ballance, who reached three figures with a six off the first ball of the day's final over, was understandably delighted.

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"I can't describe it. That was just brilliant, the feeling I have now and 10 minutes ago is indescribable," said the batsman. "I'm just over the moon at the moment. It's the thing you dream about, isn't it?"

England were in trouble after being reduced to 121 for six, but Ballance and Chris Jordan - who added 35 runs - got them back on track with a 78-run stand for the seventh wicket. The Yorkshire batsman and Stuart Broad (24) then added 57 to leave the home side in a strong position ahead of the final day.

It remains to be seen whether or not Cook will declare overnight but Ballance admitted he wanted to get his ton regardless. "We might still have a few overs out there tomorrow, I'm not so sure, but I was definitely looking to get it this evening," said the left-hander.

Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain who scored 102 as the tourists were bowled out for 453, heaped praise on his bowlers for their display yesterday. However, he also conceded that the chance of victory for his side had been injured by the stand of Ballance and Jordan.

"It's a really good wicket but I think the bowlers bowled brilliantly in the second innings," said Mathews, who watched spinner Rangana Herath take four for 95 and seamer Shaminda Eranga three for 63.

"We put them under pressure but they've got a healthy lead. Until Ballance and Jordan got together we had our chances. I'm not saying we're out of the game but we need to bat sensibly."

When pushed on whether his side would go for the victory if England declare overnight, Mathews was coy. "We've got to assess the conditions first, then see how it goes," he said.