Written by Staff Writer
18 Dec, 2015 | 11:38 am
The seam and swing on offer was far from unplayable though, and through a combination of enterprising batting, impatient bowling and some luck, Sri Lanka made 264 for 7 in the day at a run rate of just under four an over before rain ended play.
Sri Lanka combated the conditions with aggression. They had been submissive on an easier surface in Dunedin but today they stood up to New Zealand, lashing the swinging ball through the off side and pulling short deliveries instead of weaving and ducking. Kusal Mendis set the pace, Dinesh Chandimal accelerated, and when the innings was in danger of unravelling because of that aggression, Angelo Mathews tempered it to suitable levels. Once Mathews and Milinda Siriwardana had settled, however, they produced the strongest partnership of the innings, adding 138 runs at 4.60 an over.
Until three quick wickets in the final session gave New Zealand acceptable returns, the day had defied popular perceptions after Brendon McCullum began his 99th successive Test – a new record for consecutive matches from debut – by giving his attack first use of the grassy surface in Hamilton.
Trent Boult, in particular, and Tim Southee tried too hard – looking to swing the new ball prodigiously when a McGrath-like line would have sufficed – and were not on a good length around off stump often enough.
Udara Jayasundera, playing only his second Test, was also aggressive. He flicked and pulled the left-armers Boult and Wagner, and his aggression against the short ball was a sea change from how he had struggled against it Dunedin.
Sri Lanka’s advantageous position of 108 for 2 eroded quickly after lunch, though. Jayasundera was run out attempting a second that Chandimal did not want, and Chandimal added only three runs before being caught behind playing the cover drive against Bracewell. They had added 71 at 4.43 an over.
Having taken two wickets for 13 runs, McCullum tried to subdue Sri Lanka once again. Wagner began his short-ball attack with a leg gully, backward short leg and a long leg. Mathews and Siriwardana pulled when they could, middling some balls, top-edging others over the keeper for six. They were watchful too, mindful of the long tail after them, but refused to be beaten into stagnation.
Having scored 90 runs in the second session, Sri Lanka turned it on after tea. Siriwardene and Mathews charged the left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner, who had bowled so economically in Dunedin, and hit him repeatedly over the long-on boundary, giving him an economy of seven an over. One of those sixes brought up the 100 stand in 22.4 overs and Mathews’ fifty off 87 balls. They went after Bracewell too, not allowing him to perform his controlling role. Siriwardene pulled for a flat six, and then caressed the ball through covers to bring up his fifty.
Dunedin had been sunny in the morning but as it began to cloud over after tea, the ball began to hoop once again. Boult repaired his figures with a double-strike in an over, his movement away from Siriwardene resulting in an edge to slip, where Taylor juggled but caught it. Three balls later, Kithuruwan Vithanage closed the face too early and the leading edge was taken low by McCullum diving forward at mid-off.
Sri Lanka suffered another run out before the day ended, when Mathews called for a risky single towards cover. Williamson swooped on the ball from gully and his direct hit dismissed Herath. Losing three wickets for five runs just before the rain was a blight on an otherwise spirited performance from a young visiting side in tough conditions.
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