Welcome to the fierce hot world of Test match cricket.In temperatures of 32 degrees which felt like 38 because of the humidity in Galle, Ireland spent the first day of their fifth Test match in the field and by the close Sri Lanka had piled up 386 for four.

But that total camouflages a superb fightback by Ireland in the final hour when they took three wickets after a second wicket stand of 281, the highest on this ground by the home side.

Curtis Campher had been the only successful bowler in five and half hours in the fierce heat where many better sides than Ireland have toiled and failed. But then George Dockrell, in the third spinner’s role – and recalled to the Test side at the expense of Graham Hume – broke the huge partnership with a ball that turned sharply and one wicket brought two more.

Angelo Mathews was caught behind third ball off Ben White and the tireless Mark Adair, still capable bowling a hostile bouncer in the 87th over of the day, got his reward with the wicket of captain Dimuth Karunaratne for 179, caught behind as the ball moved away.

But Sri Lanka have no intention of quitting any time soon. This is the country who holds the record for the highest total in a Test match – 952 for six – and at the fall of the fourth wicket they sent in a nightwatchman to see them through to the close.

At the other end is Dinesh Chandimal who scored a double century against Australia here last year in an innings victory for Sri Lanka, while next man in Dhananjaya de Silva has scored nine Test centuries

So a big Sri Lanka win is still the likeliest result of this Test but Ireland never give up as they showed in that final session.

“We didn’t control the (run) rate as we would have liked throughout the day,” admitted acting head coach Gary Wilson, “but at tea-time we said that the chat in the Sri Lanka dressing room was probably that they had ground Ireland into the ground for two sessions and now could really cash in, but we wanted to be the team who made that difficult for them in the last session and the boys deserve huge credit for that.

“They didn’t stop fighting all day and we got our rewards for the fight and character we showed and to drag that last session back the way we did was very pleasing.”

Wilson also confirmed they expected to get overs out of Dockrell and Hume was given a break after playing in all but one of the matches on the tour, which is now into its sixth week. Matthew Humphreys was considered for a Test match debut but “he is a young guy still learning his trade” and “a slight finger problem” wouldn’t have seen him in the best light so they went for Dockrell who also strengthens the batting line-up.

The coach admirably played down the weather conditions – “yes it was out of comfort zone but we’re not making excuses, we are in Sri Lanka and it is to be expected – but undoubtedly it was a factor throughout the long day and it promises to be the same again on Monday when, for many of the players, it will be the first time they have had to come back for a second day in the field.

Of the bowlers, Andy McBrine will be the most disappointed, failing to take a wicket in his 27 overs with too many loose deliveries – a symptom which could be laid at the hands of the rest of the attack – but he still went for less than four an over which Adair and Campher, to their credit, also managed as well.

There were only six maidens all day, and three of them came in the last six overs of the day when Adair and McBrine shared the second new ball.

Chances were few and far between, with none of the edges going to hand and Kusal Mendis – who says that 450-500 would be a good total on this pitch – and Karunaratne ticked up the runs with monotonous regularity during their stand which lasted four hours and 20 minutes.

To put their partnership into context, it was only the fourth highest for the second wicket by a Sri Lanka pair and the joint 10th highest for any wicket, while both batmen have both shared in a 300+ stand. It’s not just the Ireland bowlers who suffer at the hands of this talented side.