Tim Southee swung the second cricket test back in New Zealand’s favour with some crucial late strikes against Sri Lanka in the Colombo gloom on the second evening.
Southee claimed the big scalps of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara in the third over of the innings as Sri Lanka limped to 43-3 at stumps in reply to New Zealand’s first innings of 412.
Fellow paceman Trent Boult also removed captain Mahela Jayawardene to give New Zealand hope of squaring the two-match series after a heavy 10-wicket defeat in the first test in Galle.
Southee charged in with the new ball and had immediate success as Dilshan (5) was bowled through the gate. Then Sangakkara faced just two deliveries before hooking a short-pitched offering straight to Boult at long leg.
The Northern Districts pace duo work well in tandem and Boult then got his reward as Jayawardene (4) guided a catch to centurymaker Kane Williamson at gully.
Opener Tharanga Paranavitana and Angelo Mathews will resume the rescue mission on day three with the Black Caps experiencing a rare moment of dominance on this trying tour.
Williamson (135), Ross Taylor (142) and Daniel Flynn (53) helped New Zealand rack up 412 in just over five sessions.
It’s cautious steps for this wounded New Zealand batting lineup, but at least they’re finally walking. A week after they hit rock bottom with a collapse for 118 in Galle, they showed some spine.
It was slow, sometimes painful to watch at a tick over 2.5 runs per over, but it was the cleansing this team needed after five straight test defeats. Significantly, this was the first time in nine tests New Zealand had posted 400 in their first innings.
The previous was a relative stroll in the park, 495-7 declared against Zimbabwe in Napier in January.
The match isn’t won by any means, maybe not even drawn. The P Sara Oval pitch still remains docile, with a hint of turn. The game meanders along in the sapping Colombo heat.
Lapses in concentration, rather than unplayable deliveries, tend to be a batsman’s downfall. And the acid test is yet to come as New Zealand try to stave off spin whiz Rangana Herath in the third innings after he made it 17 series
wickets and joined England’s Graeme Swann as the only men to take 50 test scalps this year.
Man of the match in Galle, Herath took 6-103 off 49 overs as the Black Caps were finally dismissed in the 153rd.
There was some fight shown, with left-hander Flynn the latest New Zealand batsman to step up as a mini-collapse threatened to undo the hard toil of Taylor and Williamson who added 262 for the third wicket.
Flynn displays a cast iron defence and the sort of grit cricket followers warm to. Shunted everywhere from one to six in the order, and averaging 28 from 21 previous tests, he may finally have booked his stay for the long haul. He faced 135 balls for 53 before he was ninth out, lbw to Herath.
And Flynn should remain at five after Kane Williamson erased any doubts about his spot at three. It wasn’t a happy time for Williamson after his memorable, match-saving century against South Africa at the Basin Reserve in March. His last 10 tests reaped 173 runs at 17.3; he desperately needed his third test century and he toiled hard for a
tick over seven hours. Taylor and Williamson departed within five overs of each other, lbw sweeping Herath. Their dismissals removed the gloss slightly and sparked a mini collapse of 4-24, with debutant Todd Astle (3) also
fooled by Herath.
Taylor batted 388 minutes and faced 306 balls in his innings, a brave fightback and a captain’s knock with his side 14-2. But he has eight test centuries and a highest score of 154 not out. A Taylor or Williamson double-century and the Black Caps were headed for an unbeatable 500.
Sri Lanka: Tharanga Paranavitana, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (c), Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara, Rangana Herath, Suraj Randiv, Shaminda Eranga.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor (c), Daniel Flynn, Todd Astle, Kruger van Wyk, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Jeetan Patel, Trent Boult.