By Matt Somerford
Gary Ballance fulfilled a life dream when he struck a century at Lord's to give England back control of the first Investec Test against Sri Lanka.
The 24-year-old, playing just his second Test, lofted Rangana Herath into the stand in the final over to reach his milestone.
Even more significantly it put the seal on an assured innings that resuscitated England's faltering fortunes after they had threatened to relinquish control of a match they have bossed for the majority.
England were able to recover to the close at 267 for eight and a 389-run lead.
With an overnight declaration likely, Sri Lanka would be left with a record fourth-inning chase in Test cricket at Lord's thanks in the main to Ballance.
"It's a great feeling," Ballance told ecb.co.uk.
"It's what I've dreamt about - scoring a hundred here at Lord's or just scoring a hundred.
"At Lord's makes it even more special."
Ballance made his mind up to try and go to three figures with one blow once the final over began, but admitted his heart was in his mouth when he went through with the shot.
"It felt like forever (that the ball as in the air)," he said.
"I didn't think I had enough of it, but I watched it all the way and it's just a great feeling that it went over the rope."
After watching the ball fall to safety the Zimbabwe-born left-hander celebrated by racing down the wicket before acknowledging his family who were in the stands.
"They flew over from Zimbabwe a few days ago so it's great to have them here for the week and to score a hundred in front of them was amazing," he said.
England had desperately required Ballance's resilience after slipping to 121 for six when Matt Prior guided Nuwan Kulasekara to gully shortly after tea.
Ballance was left as the last recognised batsman, but with debutant Chris Jordan he provided a glimpse into the future of England as they calmly steered their side back to a position of control in a 78-run stand.
"It was quite tough. We had a good lead but they bowled quite well to be fair," said Ballance, who saw Yorkshire team-mate Joe Root hit an unbeaten 200 in the first innings.
"They bowled good areas and we lost a few wickets to some good balls.
"We had to rebuild a little bit and take our time. I knew if I took my time that scoring would come a lot easier in the last session."
He also praised Jordan after he defied his inexperience at this level to play the type of proactive innings the situation demanded.
"He's a good player," he said. "He's very talented and he strikes it well. He was positive and I was just happy giving him the ones and giving him the strike the way he was scoring. He played well and kept me going."
By the time Jordan departed, for 35 from 50 balls, Ballance was able to open his shoulders and go head down towards his century.
He did so in the nick of time and ensured England took a healthy lead into the last day.
"We've given ourselves a chance with the attack we've got," Ballance said.
"If we get a few wickets early on then we'll give ourselves a chance. If we bowl well then we can get a victory."
He added: "It's still a good pitch and you can score quickly with this outfield."