Roshen Silva top-scored with 85 and enjoyed support from fellow half-centurions Dimuth Karunaratne and Dhananjaya de Silva. Jack Leach, the pick of the English bowlers, returned figures of 3/70 in his influential bowling effort, while Adil Rashid claimed three scalps for 75 runs in his 22-over spell.
A regulation delivery from Malinda Pushpakumara bowled captain Joe Root for 14 through the gate to leave England teetering at 65 for three and Burns' assured knock ended at the hand thanks to a beauty from Akila Dananjaya, whose action was reported after the first Test.
"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". But we know that if we bat well tomorrow then the pressure's on them.
"Tomorrow if we can get a couple of wickets before they erase the deficit, we will be in a good position, so that is our plan". Umpire Marais Erasmus from South Africa determined Silva deliberately ran short and penalized Sri Lanka by five runs.
Karunaratne, who made 63, put on 96 for the third wicket with De Silva to steady the innings after they slipped to 31 for two early on the second day in Kandy. We need to look at our strategy and if we can keep them down to 250 in the second innings, we can chase down the target.
But while that is not unsubstantial in what appears to be a relatively low-scoring encounter, Leach was hopeful that bowling last on a dry wicket could provide England with a key advantage.
Karunaratne's own innings came to an end via a run-out, with Ben Stokes swooping in from cover to throw down the stumps at the strikers' end, after Dhananjaya de Silva had called for a quick single.
'There is nothing about the Sri Lanka spinners which should worry England too much - they don't have a Muttiah Muralitharan or Shane Warne - but the tourists do have a collapse in them.