|Sri Lanka looked to be heading for victory against England but Swann has helped to turn things around [AFP]
Offspinner Graeme Swann took 4-28 in leading England's fightback to restrict Sri Lanka's second innings to 84-5 and a 209-run lead after two days of the first Test on Tuesday.
England conceded a 125-run first-innings lead to Sri Lanka.
Opener Lahiru Thirimanne and senior batsmen Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera were all dismissed within 31 overs, leaving Sri Lanka 72-5.
Earlier, spinner Rangana Herath took 6-74 to end England's first innings for 193 in reply to Sri Lanka's 318.
A total of 17 wickets fell during the second day's play, 12 of which to spinners as the pitch at Galle International Stadium offered sharp turn and bounce.
"Disappointing not to back up our bowlers, again they've been outstanding for a fourth Test match this winter"
Jayawardene said his team will be comfortable defending a total of at least 250, but that England's batsmen were better than what they showed on the field on Tuesday.
"They are a quality batting unit, they've got about six or seven good batters. We need not be complacent just because they got bowled out in the first innings, we have to do the hard work tomorrow with the bat and if we get to bowl as well the same stuff.''
"It's not going to just happen for us, it will be a tough Test match to win from now on,'' said Jayawardene.
Praising Herath for his bowling, Jayawardene said the left-armer has done well in leading a less fancied spin attack following the retirement of ace offspin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan.
Bell was disappointed that England's batsmen failed again and insisted they are working hard on improving playing on spin-friendly pitches on the subcontinent.
"Yes. It's a real shame, it's not through a lack of effort. Disappointing not to back up our bowlers, again they've been outstanding for a fourth Test match this winter.''
"We know that we have to get better playing in the subcontinent. It's a long-term goal and it's not going to happen overnight, we are working as hard as we can,'' Bell said.