Pathum Nissanka joined an exclusive club as just the fourth Sri Lankan to score a century on Test debut as the visitors continued to haul themselves into the ascendancy, reaching 435 for five, a lead of 333 runs, at tea in the first Test against the West Indies on Wednesday.
Nissanka, who lost overnight partner Dhananjaya de Silva in the first over of the morning, slowed to a crawl in the second session of the day at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. He finally reached the coveted landmark just before the interval with an edged couple of runs to third man off part-time bowler Jermaine Blackwood.
It was a measure of the West Indies' desperation for a breakthrough that they resorted to an eighth bowler in Blackwood as Nissanka and Niroshan Dickwella extended their unbroken sixth-wicket partnership to 176.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Dickwella was on 81 in pursuit of a maiden Test hundred in his 42nd match.
Nissanka joins Brendon Kuruppu, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Thilan Samaraweera as the only Sri Lankans to score hundreds on Test debut.
Samaraweera was the last to achieve the landmark before Wednesday, reaching three figures in his first Test, against India in Colombo in 2001.
West Indian delight at the early success when fast bowler Alzarri Joseph, operating with the second new ball, dismissed de Silva for an even 50 proved to be short-lived as the 22-year-old Nissanka found another solid partner in the pugnacious Dickwella.
The home side contributed to their own plight as Nkrumah Bonner dropped the simplest of catches at gully off fast-medium bowler Jason Holder when Dickwella was on 45.
The batsman also enjoyed a slice of luck just before the end of the session when a half-hearted appeal by Joseph for a catch to the wicketkeeper down the leg-side was turned down by the umpire.
Television replays showed that the batsman edged the ball but the West Indies had exhausted their television reviews earlier in the day.
After starting the day at 255 for five and ahead by 153 runs, the Sri Lankans are in position to push for quick runs and build an overall lead closer to 400 going into the final day.
Brief scores at tea:
Sri Lanka 169 (L. Thirimanne 70; J. Holder 5-27) and 435-5 (P. Nissanka 101 n.o., N. Dickwella 81 n.o., O. Fernando 91, L. Thirimanne 76) v West Indies 271 (R. Cornwall 61; S. Lakmal 5-47)
Toss: West Indies
Match status: Sri Lanka lead by 333 runs with five second innings wickets in hand