Leeds: Alex Hales and Jonathan Bairstow frustrated Sri Lanka after debutant all-rounder Dasun Shanaka sparked a top-order collapse on the first day of the first Test against England at Headingley on Thursday.
England, who were 70 for four, had moved on to 171 for five when rain prevented any play after tea and forced an early close to an intriguing opening day in the 75th Test staged at Headingley.
Hales, under pressure for his place as an opener after a modest return in England's series win in South Africa, was a Test-best 71 not out, with Bairstow unbeaten on 54 on his Yorkshire home ground.
The pair's so far unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of 88 was the cornerstone of an England recovery after Shanaka's treble strike helped justify Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews' decision to field first.
"There was consistent swing all day a bit of nibble, I almost had to rein myself in a bit. I am pleased I managed to get through it," Hales told reporters after stumps.
The Nottinghamshire batsman said he would try to avoid letting the fact he is now just 29 runs shy of a maiden Test hundred prey on his mind.
"I'll come back tomorrow (Friday) and try not to put any extra pressure on myself, just do what I did today," the 27-year-old insisted.
Hales paid tribute to Bairstow, whose runs Thursday came off a mere 67 balls, by saying: "The way Jonny came in and counter-attacked, that was brilliant on what I thought was a pretty tricky pitch"
Mathews won the toss in overcast conditions reminiscent of those at Headingley two years ago when his side triumphed in the second Test to seal their first series win in England.
England captain Alastair Cook, who started his innings needing just 36 more runs to become the first Englishman to score 10,000 in Tests, got off the mark with a trademark clip legside clip for four.
But the left-handed opener was caught behind for 16 going trying to cover-drive a wide but full delivery from medium-pacer Shanaka.
Three deliveries later, Shanaka had the under-fire Nick Compton out for nought with first slip Lahiru Thirimanne holding a low catch.
Joe Root, England's recently crowned player of the year in all formats, also fell for a duck as he edged Shanaka to gully.
Shanaka, showing the value of maintaining a good length in helpful but not excessively swing-friendly conditions, had taken three wickets for one run in eight balls.
"It's a great start to my career, the conditions suited my bowling," said Shanaka, who had figures of three for 30 in nine overs at stumps.
As for claiming England great Cook as his maiden Test scalp, the all-rounder added: "I will remember the moment I got that wicket until the end."
Early in the second session, England saw both debutant James Vince and all-rounder Ben Stokes fall cheaply as they slumped to 83 for five.
Hales pressed on to complete an admirable 112-ball fifty in the circumstances when he drove Dushmantha Chameera behind point for his 10th four.
He then went on to surpass his previous highest Test score of 60 against South Africa at Cape Town in January.
Bairstow was given out lbw on 41 but successfully reviewed the decision and soon afterwards lofted spinner Rangana Herath for six.
Sri Lanka then reviewed a not out call in favour of the wicket-keeper when Herath's lbw appeal was rejected, with replays again favouring Bairstow.
Players from both sides wore back armbands in memory of all those killed by recent flooding and landslides in Sri Lanka....