Heavy rains forced early stumps at Seddon Park, Hamilton as Sri Lanka looked strong after their 1st Test defeat by 122 runs. At the close of 67 overs, Sri Lanka were clearly the team who looked happier as they managed to score 264/7 after periodic double-strikes shook things up for them during the start.
With the wicket looking greenish on the surface, New Zealand having won the toss decided to bowl first. The wicket was said to be a bowler’s paradise, but the home side’s pacers couldn’t have many purchases from the pitch. Speedster Tim Southee was certain to damage Sri Lanka’s start as nicked two quickies down to keeper Watling, sending both openers – Karunaratane (12) and Mendis (31) back to their dressing room. Sri Lanka off to a shaky start, as they were reduced to 44/2.
Recovering from the first double strike, batsmen Jayasundara (26) and Chandimal (47) stabilized the proceedings. While Jayasundara played the calm and composed character, wicket-keeper batsman Chandimal was the aggressive one as he troubled the bowlers a lot. His striking approach led him to a blistering innings of 56-ball-47 which included 7 boundaries.
Their 71-run-partnership was looking good, but miscommunication between the batsmen lead to this throwing off the wicket. Completing one run, Jayasundara didn’t hear or see his partner’s rejection over the second run as he was already halfway across the pitch. Mitchell Santner was quick to throw to the stumps and with the keeper collecting it, even a dive couldn’t save this partnership to end. Doug Bracewell denied Chandimal his well-deserved half-century, with his ball catching an outside edge and travelling straight to keeper Watling. The scoreboard showing 121/4 with Sri Lanka in trouble.
In came captain Angelo Mathews (63 n.o.) and Siriwardana (62) who kept the scoreboard ticking after Sri Lanka faced their second double-strike. Their record-breaking partnership of 138 runs bettered the one of 133 runs set by Mahela Jayawardene and Hashan Tillakaratne in 2003. Both batsmen sent 3 balls to the stands and 5 to the fence, through the ground, as they hammered the Kiwi bowlers.
Just when this partnership was looking ambitious, Boult struck. Siriwardana tried to drive, but Boult’s accurate line and length and a late away-swing just caught his bat’s edge and went straight to Taylor which he juggled at first but then caught the ball at the second attempt.
New Zealand clawed their way back to game after another strike in the same over saw the new batsmen Vithanage, return to the pavilion with contributing nothing towards the team total after McCullum taking a superb catch at mid-off. Mathews had no option but to continue cautiously with spinner Herath at the crease. Just two overs later, even Herath was shown the way to the dressing room. Mathews wanting to rotate strike was intercepted late by Herath as he fell short of reaching the crease at the other end, leading to the 7th wicket being taken down by the Kiwis. An unnecessary attempt saw Sri Lanka pay a hefty price for it.
With the captain soldering on, Mathews still needs to bat cautiously and keep strike with him as from now, he’ll have only tail-enders batting with him. It would have been Sri Lanka’s day, hadn’t they managed to throw their last two wickets away. They had procured a stable innings with the 138-run partnership and just needed to carry it forward with some more similar partnerships to put the Black Cups on the back foot.
Boult and Southee were the picks of the bowlers as they grabbed two wickets each. With Angelo Mathews still on the crease, Sri Lanka would want him to keep scoring to get the team across the 300 or 350-run mark so that they could pose a big challenge for the home team.
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