Ballance century sees England fulfil KP 'instructions'
England’s Gary Ballance celebrates after reaching his century during play on the fourth day of the first cricket Test match between England and Sri Lanka at Lord's cricket ground in London on June 15, 2014 - by Ian Kington
Zimbabwe-born Ballance, promoted to number three in only his second Test, made 104 after England had slumped to 121 for six in their second innings.
But by stumps the 24-year-old Yorkshire left-hander had guided England to a total of 267 for eight and a lead of 389.
That left Sri Lanka needing to surpass the highest fourth innings total to win a Test at Lord's -- 344 for one, requiring 342, by the West Indies against England in 1984 -- if they were to go 1-0 up in this two-match series.
England captain Alastair Cook, will now likely declare before play begins on Monday's fifth and final day in a bid to give his bowlers a full 90 overs to take all 10 of Sri Lanka's second-innings wickets.
Prior to Sunday's play, Pietersen -- axed by England after their 5-0 Ashes series loss in Australia -- tweeted: "Going to Lord's today. "Want to see SL out 460 & ENG bat positively to a 380 lead then declare...entertain today pls, Cook's men!"
Pietersen was in the Grandstand at Lord's to see Sri Lanka bowled out for 453 in reply to England's first innings 575 for nine declared.
But it needed a fine knock from Ballance, whose previous Test-best was the 23 he made in the first innings of this match, and good support from debutant all-rounder Chris Jordan in a seventh-wicket stand of 78 to turn the tide.
Ballance went to his century in the grand manner with a six off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath in the last over of the day.
"It's just a great feeling. I can't really describe it," said Ballance. "It's just very special, and I'm over the moon."
- No nurdling singles -
Some batsmen in sight of a first Test hundred -- and one at Lord's as well -- might have been happy to 'get there in singles'.
But Ballance himself had a simple explanation for his bold approach.
"With one over to go, I needed three -- and I didn't want to nurdle around in singles.
"So I thought I'd go with a slog-sweep and luckily it came out of the middle.
"I thought 'if there's a chance to get a hundred tonight, why not try to get it tonight?"'
Ballance's innings was made all the more special for him by being played in front of his close family.
"I had my parents and my brother fly over from Zimbabwe a few days ago. "It's special to score this hundred in front of them."
Ballance did have a worrying moment when Sri Lanka appealed for a catch behind off Shaminda Eranga when he was on 36.
But the on-field decision went in his favour, as did Sri Lanka's review.
"I was confident I hadn't hit it," said Ballance. "But with DRS (the decision review system), you never really know, do you?
"My heart was in my mouth a bit, but I was pretty confident."
Meanwhile Sri Lanka middle-order batsman Lahiru Thirimanne was optimistic the tourists could save the game on Monday.
"The wicket is still very good, so we are hoping to bat well tomorrow."