COLOMBO - Adil Rashid said that he is relishing being part of England’s three-man spin attack, with a clear remit to be the bowler who “makes things happen”, after producing a brilliant five-wicket haul to transform the balance of play in the third Test at Colombo.

Rashid’s haul of 5 for 49 in 13.5 overs tore Sri Lanka’s innings apart in the hour after tea on the second day, as they slumped from 173 for 1 to 240 all out, including the loss of their last eight wickets for 53 runs.

He was superbly backed up by his team-mates - in particular Keaton Jennings under the helmet at short leg, who claimed four outstanding catches, three of them off Rashid’s bowling - and the indefatigable Ben Stokes, who tore in with the old ball to claim 3 for 30 in a strength-sapping ten-over spell.

But Rashid benefitted most of all from knowing his role within England’s multi-faceted attack. While his fellow spinners, Jack Leach and Moeen Ali, can be relied upon to place accuracy and containment at the top of their agendas, Rashid recognises that he has licence to go through his repertoire in search of the sort of magic balls that only wristspinners seem capable of producing.

“Definitely that is my role,” Rashid told Sky Sports. “Since I came back, I’ve tried to come in and break partnerships, and make things happen. You’ve got Leachy and Mo who can contain and get wickets, but we have that understanding now that that’s what Rooty [Joe Root] wants from me as a bowler. Sometimes, if it doesn’t work within five or six overs, I can have a break and come back in again, but at this moment in time it’s going okay.”

Asked if this was the best that he had ever bowled in Test cricket, Rashid paused for an eternity before responding “maybe”, which was a telling equivocation. He did, after all, claim a five-wicket haul in the UAE on his Test debut in 2015-16, as well 30 wickets on the tour of Bangladesh and India two winters ago. But on those occasions, because of his relative isolation in a two-man spin attack, it was harder for him to be the bowler that England needed in every situation of a game.

Now, however, things are different with three spinners to work the options. “We’re all enjoying it, all three of us, as we all feed off each other,” Rashid said. “We get on well off the pitch and we help each other. We’re all happy having that attack, especially with one spinning in, one spinning away and a wristspinner, so we’ve got quite a lot of variation there and on any given day it could be a different person for every innings. And luckily enough it was me today.”

Luck, of course, wasn’t the only factor, for Rashid showcased an excellent range of skills in the course of his spell, landing his googlies and legbreaks accurately while varying his pace effectively as well.

“I went out there with a positive mindset, and bowling my variations, sticking to my strength,” he said. “My strength is the variations, and being confident in that. Sometimes I was mixing up my pace too, bowling slower and quicker, and it’s about finding the right pace a lot sooner into the spell, rather than 10-15 overs in.”

Rashid’s impact for England has been long recognised in white-ball cricket, in which format he has been instrumental in the team’s rise to the No.1 world ranking. Transferring that mindset back to Test cricket, a version of the sport he had effectively given up earlier this year after signing a white-ball-only contract with Yorkshire, has taken some getting used to.

“At times it can be challenging, especially with the red ball,” he said. “You have to do the practice in the nets, find your natural pace, whatever that is, and bowl there, then go quicker, slower … for me it’s about being positive, being attacking with the variations, and sticking to that positive mindset.”

The overall positive vibe in England’s squad paid clear dividends on the second afternoon, when Rashid emerged from tea to dislodge the rock of Sri Lanka’s batting, Dimuth Karunaratne, in the first over after the resumption, and ultimately secure a first-innings lead of 96.

“It was a great comeback in that last session, they got off to a great start but we always had that belief going into tea, we came back and kept it simple and the rewards came,” said Rashid. “Batsmen are there to make runs, there are always going to be partnerships, that’s part of Test cricket. But the main thing was to have that belief within the team, not to go through the motions and give up. That’s what we did, and the tea break came at a good time.

“Maybe there’ve been periods when I felt I’ve bowled better but today it felt good and to get the wickets in that session, with Stokesy at the other end, was a nice feeling. He is a matchwinner, he proved that again for the team, running in, bending his back. We had a set plan and he executed it perfectly so all credit to him.”

England resume on the third day with an overall lead of 99, and ten wickets which which to build a platform for their third victory of the tour. “I think we’ve got to look to be positive tomorrow, like we have the whole series,” said Rashid. “We will take the scoreboard out of it and see where it takes us session by session, hour by hour. We’re not looking at a target, just play your game and see where it takes us.”