Colombo: England's batsmen saw off Sri Lanka's early challenge on the fifth and final day as the second Test headed towards a draw on Thursday.
The tourists, needing to bat out the day after trailing by 197 runs on the first innings, carried their overnight score of 48-0 to 152/1 at the end of a cloudy morning session.
Alastair Cook was unbeaten on 62 after sharing an opening stand of 107 with his captain Michael Vaughan.
The pair had put on 133 in the first innings with Cook making 81 and Vaughan 87.
Vaughan, who hit a fluent 61 in the second innings, was the lone batsman to be dismissed before lunch when he offered a tame return catch to fast bowler Dilhara Fernando.
Ian Bell was the other batsman at the crease on 25.
Sri Lanka won 10 of their last 12 Tests at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC), but the slow wicket ensured there was no immediate threat from champion spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.
The off-spinner, who became Test cricket's most successful bowler during the first Test in Kandy which Sri Lanka won by 88 runs, sent down 16 unsuccessful overs conceding 30 runs.
Vaughan and Cook added a run-a-minute 56 runs against the seamers before Vaughan departed against the run of play.
England need a draw to attempt a series-levelling win when the final Test starts in Galle next Tuesday.
Brief Scores (at lunch, D-5):
England 351 and 152/1 (Cook 62*, Vaughan 61, Bell 25*; Fernando 1 for 26) Vs Sri Lanka 548/9 decl