London, Jun 4: England fought back after losing their first three wickets in the space of half an hour to reach 342 for six on the opening day of the second test against Sri Lanka at Lord's on Friday.
Alastair Cook gave another display of immense concentration and application after watching Andrew Strauss (4), Jonathan Trott (2) and Kevin Pietersen (2) depart in swift succession.
Opener Cook was only four runs short of what would have been his sixth century in nine tests when he skied an attempted pull off Dilhara Fernando and was caught at mid-on.
Cook had batted for 279 minutes with 15 boundaries. He shared a fourth-wicket partnership of 108 with Ian Bell (52) and added 71 for the fifth with Eoin Morgan (79).
Captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, mindful perhaps of Sri Lanka's abject collapse in the second innings against a battery of short-pitched bowling in their first-test defeat in Cardiff, elected to bowl first after winning the toss on a hot, sunny morning.
The home team named Steven Finn as their replacement for the injured James Anderson, giving England the tallest test fast-bowling trio of all time and one certain to make liberal use of the lifting ball.
Dilshan defended a somewhat surprising decision by saying he wanted to make maxiumun use of his four-pronged pace attack after spinner Ajantha Mendis was dropped and the events of the first hour certainly vindicated his choice.
Strauss and Trott fell lbw to deliveries which would have taken their leg stumps and Pietersen, who also failed in Cardiff, guided a wide delivery from Suranga Lakmal to gully where Dilshan took a tumbling catch.
Bell survived a spell of genuinely quick bowling from Fernando, who missed the first test through injury.The batsman fended off several lifting deliveries and at one point was struck on the body.
Cook carried on serenely, reaching his half-century with his ninth four but then lost Bell, who had played some typically assured drives between his periods of uncertainty, caught at slip off lively left-armer Chanaka Welegedara.
Morgan batted enterprisingly, striking the only two sixes of the day off spinners Dilshan and Rangana Herath, and looked poised to reach his second test century.
However, he became the third lbw victim of the innings and Lakmal's third wicket when he was hit on the pads playing across the line. Umpire Billy Doctrove rejected the appeal but Sri Lanka referred the decision and the television replay confirmed the ball would have hit the stumps.
Morgan had been ably supported by Matt Prior, who took advantage of a pitch now devoid of any surprises and a tiring attack to reach 73 not out at the close.