Paul Stirling joined the elite company of players who have scored centuries in all three international formats when he reached three figures on the second day of the Galle Test against Sri Lanka.

The hosts reached the close – an hour earlier than scheduled because of rain – on 81 for no wicket in reply to Ireland’s 492, comfortably their highest total in their 11th Test innings.

Stirling, resuming on his overnight 74 after he was forced to retire hurt with cramp, spent another 76 minutes in the middle before he drove right arm pace man Asitha Fernando over the cover boundary to bring up his fifth hundred for Ireland and seventh in first class cricket but, significantly, his first in a Test match.

He is only the 23rd player to have scored a century in Tests, ODIs and T20Is and the second Ireland batter after Kevin O’Brien.

Paul Stirling has now scored centuries in all three formats of the game (SLC)

“Delighted with that,” he said afterwards. “It’s something I didn’t think I could achieve, especially in Test match cricket, but it will mean a helluva lot more if we go onto to get a positive result here.”

Stirling’s innings yesterday, however, was overshadowed by Curtis Campher, who turned his first Test match 50, also brought up with a six, into a superb 111, with barely a false stroke in an innings of supreme concentration and fitness.

He batted for five hours and 10 minutes and hit 15 fours and two sixes and has booked his place in what is turning into a very powerful middle-order for Ireland, behind skipper Andrew Balbirnie, Harry Tector and Lorcan Tucker.

Tector, who hit back to back 50s on his Test debut in Bangladesh, was the only one of that quartet to fail in the first innings here with Balbirnie hitting 95 on day one and Tucker adding another two runs to the 78 yesterday.

“Seeing runs throughout the order and so late in the order helps,” said Stirling. “The lads have batted so well and to knuckle down and score runs is a real good sign of character in the team.”

Tucker was out to the fourth ball of the day, a beauty from left armer Vishwa Fernando which ripped through his defence, but that let Stirling in and a cover driven four off his third ball eased him back into the groove.

After Ireland passed their previous high total of 339, Stirling had no trouble reaching 96, but then, probably with the anxiety of a first Test century just one stroke away, it all became much more difficult. It didn’t help that Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne used Asitha to give Stirling a barrage of short balls, which he either couldn’t get away or did well to avoid.

The six to bring up his century was his only scoring stroke in his last 14 balls because he then fell into the trap and holed out to fine leg for 103. In all he faced 181 balls and hit nine fours and four sixes but he was just delighted to get back this morning to resume his innings.

Explaining yesterday’s problem, his first innings of the tour in Sri Lanka, he said: “It was extremely hot. I actually had a parasitic illness coming into the match which didn’t help, so it was tough. I just fatigued out – I remember it happening before in Calcutta in 2011 – and it wasn’t pleasant.”

Andy McBrine replaced Stirling in the middle and saw Campher to his century in a seventh wicket stand of 89 before the North West Warriors skipper was caught at backward point for a solid 35.

Unfortunately it was the beginning of the end of the innings, with Campher falling to a superb slip catch just two runs later and the final two wickets, including Matthew Humphreys’ maiden Test innings, added only another 16 runs.

Stirling was careful not to read too much into the Ireland total but he did say “we will take 500 roughly every day of the week”.

He added: “If we are going to be slightly hyper-critical, one of the lads who got runs should have gone on to make an even higher score and got us closer to 600, but I’m not going to knock anyone. It’s a very good wicket, they’ve scored at a very good rate (four-and-a-half an over) with none down so there is a lot of work to be done. But we have shown we can compete in Test cricket.”

Ominously, the Sri Lanka openers were untroubled in the 75 minutes batting, but with the pitch expected to take more turn on Wednesday, it will be a good test for the Ireland bowlers. For now they remain in the box seat.