DUNEDIN, New Zealand: Dimuth Karunaratne made 84 and Dineth Chandimal was unbeaten on 83 as Sri Lanka made slow progress to 197-4 at stumps Friday, leaving the first cricket test against New Zealand neatly poised at the end of the second day.
Karunaratne and Chandimal put on 122 in a prolonged partnership for the second wicket which allowed Sri Lanka to rally after the loss of early wickets to challenge New Zealand’s first innings of 431.
New Zealand hurried to that total Thursday and early Friday, scoring at 4.48 runs per over after losing the toss and being sent in on a green pitch. Sri Lanka set a much more pedestrian scoring pace, managing only 2.43 runs per over throughout the second day and allowing its run rate to drop below 2 at times while grinding its way toward first innings parity.
Wickets were hard to come by, apart from the spurt at the end of the first day and start of the second when Sri Lanka wrapped up New Zealand’s tail and when the New Zealand bowlers exposed Sri Lanka’s inexperienced top order.
New Zealand also snapped up Karunaratne and Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews (2) within three overs to set back the tourists’ rally.
Otherwise, the wickets have been well-spaced and have only come from concerted effort and sustained pressure from the bowlers and fieldsmen.
Wicketkeeper B.J. Watling took catches to dismiss all four Sri Lanka batsmen who fell Friday and off four different bowlers. In doing so he surpassed 100 test dismissals — reaching that mark with his first catch and ending the day with 103 — to further establish himself among New Zealand’s best test ‘keepers.
The innings of Karunaratne and Chandimal were exercises in concentration. Karunaratne, who made his maiden test century in New Zealand a year ago and has gone on to make two more against Pakistan and the West Indies, negotiated the loss of Kusal Mendis (8) and Udara Jayasundera (1) to provide the early backbone of the Sri Lanka innings.
Karunaratne took 10 minutes less than three hours to bring up his half century; Chandimal took nine minutes more than three hours but both placed more emphasis on survival than accumulation Friday as Sri Lanka sought a foothold in the match.
Their 122-run partnership occupied 48.5 overs and they scored at only 2.49 runs per over but they played Sri Lanka into a solid position, giving it hope of matching New Zealand’s first innings total.
The quick loss of Mathews was costly. English umpire Nigel Llong turned down New Zealand’s appeal for a catch down the leg side but television umpire Paul Reiffel overturned the decision when Hot Spot technology showed a faint edge.
Four New Zealand bowlers took wickets Friday but young left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner was probably the best for the home side, taking 1-37 from 19 overs.
“They batted quite well to be fair,” Santner said. “We bowled quite tight at them, didn’t give them too many bad balls but they stuck at it well and hopefully in the morning we can nick a few out with the new ball.”