Joe Root backs players to showcase their skills '“ Sam Curran

Sam Curran felt England ended a difficult first day against Sri Lanka in a strong position after his late barrage of sixes shifted the momentum in the second Test.

Last stand: England's James Anderson, left, and Sam Curran, right, run between wickets during the first day of the second test. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Curran top-scored with 64 as the tourists made 285 all out in Kandy, clearing the ropes six times in a buccaneering last-wicket stand with support man James Anderson.

After teetering on 89-4 and opening up the tail at 171-7, a 60-run stand for the 10th wicket gave the final score a much-needed adrenaline shot and turned the pressure back on Sri Lanka. Jack Leach then picked off opener Kaushal Silva in a tricky period before stumps, leaving the hosts 26-1 heading into day two.

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“Me and Jimmy had quite a bit of fun out there,” said Curran, a 20-year-old rookie who is fast building an envious collection of game-turning contributions on the big stage.

“It was crucial, getting close to 300 was massive for us. Jimmy was probably trying to calm me down, telling me to trust him.

“You’ve just got to back your ability, take the risks when you need to.

“Rooty (captain Joe Root) has been massive in the dressing room saying ‘don’t worry about making mistakes’ and we’re just trying to go out with a positive mindset.

“We’ve got a nice score on the board and it was a great positive for Leachy to bowl a beautiful ball to get rid of their opener.”

England's Jack Leach reacts after delivering a ball to Sri Lanka's Malinda Pushpakumara. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

While England’s score is not an imposing first-innings effort on the face of it, Curran is confident it is a healthy one given the state of the Pallekele pitch.

The ball began turning in the second over of the day and continued doing so for three sessions, with runs likely to get even harder to come by as the surface deteriorates.

“The next couple of days are going to be exciting for spin bowlers and batters are going to be on their toes,” predicted Curran. “Spinners are going to have a huge role and we’ve got three great spinners all bowling very nicely.”