Curtis Campher took the only wicket to fall on day three of the second Test in Galle yesterday  as Sri Lanka closed ominously on Ireland’s record total, scoring at will on a pitch that gave the visitors’ attack no margin for error.

Curtis Campher was Ireland's only wicket taker on Day 3 in Galle (CSL)

Both openers completed centuries and Kusal Mendis galloped to 83 not out from 96 balls to take his side to 357-1, trailing by just 135 runs, and Sri Lanka would probably have been ahead but for a merciful thunderstorm that ended play during the tea break.

“We didn’t put the ball in the right areas consistently and gave away too many four balls, and even six balls,” bowling coach Ryan Eagleson said.

“Test match cricket is about building pressure, putting dot balls together, bowling maidens. We’ve bowled only four maidens but credit to the Sri Lanka batters, the way they went about their business and didn’t let our bowlers settle.”

Off spinner Andy McBrine was the most consistent of the attack, finding good rhythm in a seven-over spell after lunch, and would have had a wicket but for a spilled catch at slip, while leg-spinner Ben White also impressed at times.

By contrast left-armer Matt Humphreys, making his debut at both first-class and Test level, suffered a torrid debut and was hit for three consecutive sixes by Mendis in his eighth and understandably last over.

The 20-year-old from Lisburn is Ireland’s brightest spin bowling prospect, having starred for the U19s, and would have known he was taking a big step up in class - he now knows just how big a step.

It wasn’t all bad news for Humphreys, though, because in the last over before lunch he stood firm under a skier at fine leg to give Campher just reward for a fiery spell of short-pitched bowling.

“When you are playing a Test as your first first-class match it’s always going to be difficult against this quality of batsman,” Eagleson said. 

“Matthew’s challenge going forward is to be more consistent and as a left-arm spinner land it in the danger areas. But he will learn from it and come back - it’s just [a lack of] consistency across the board with a lot of our bowlers.”

So far the pitch has shown no signs of breaking up, as is its wont in Galle, but if Sri Lanka can build a sizeable lead, Ireland may find themselves battling to save a Test on the final day that not so long ago they had high hopes of winning.