HAMILTON: Angelo Mathews made an unbeaten half century and shared a record 136-run fifth-wicket stand with Milinda Siriwardana to help Sri Lanka to 264-7 Friday before rain ended the first day of the second cricket test against New Zealand.
Only two run outs and a stumble when the partnership between Mathews (63 not out) and Siriwardana (62) was broken detracted from Sri Lanka’s best batting effort of the series, which overturned expectations that the team that bowled first would win the day.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum won the toss and asked Sri Lanka to bat on a lush green pitch at Seddon Park, expecting his bowlers to dominate in conditions which supported both seam and swing.
Apart from Mathews, who maintains a test average in excess of 50, and Siriwardana, who reached his second test half century, Kusal Mendis made 31 and Dinesh Chandimal 47 as Sri Lanka kept up a lively run rate of four per over throughout the day.
The partnership between Mathews and Siriwardana came in only 131 minutes and eclipsed the previous best fifth wicket partnership for Sri Lanka against New Zealand. Trent Boult made the breakthrough when he produced an edge from Siriwardana, which Ross Taylor juggled before securing at first slip.
Taylor had dropped a catch in the same position in the second over of the day which played a part in allowing Sri Lanka to set aside its concerns about the pitch and make a positive start.
After a poor batting performance its first test loss of 122 runs, Sri Lanka took a more positive approach from the outset on Friday.
Mendis hit the New Zealand bowlers off their lengths, attacking anything that was full and creating the first uncertainty among the home side’s attack.
New Zealand took an hour to achieve the first breakthrough, then Tim Southee found a more effective length and dismissed Dimuth Karunaratne (12) and Mendis in quick succession on either side of the first drinks break.
“We’re disappointed to be honest with the way we bowled. The odd ball every over was letting us down when it came to building pressure,” Boult said. “I think we just missed a trick today a little bit but the positive is we did manage to turn it around a little bit.”
Rather than going into its shell, Sri Lanka stepped up the attack. Dinesh Chandimal played at the first ball he faced and edged a boundary before slips. He then unleashed a barrage of mainly uppish drives through cover and mid-off to lead Sri Lanka to 108-2 by lunch.
Jayasundera made 26 and put on 61 with Chandimal for the third wicket before being run out in a mixup with his partner, beaten by Mitchell Santner’s throw to the wickekeeper.
Chandimal followed soon after, driving lavishly again and edging to keeper B.J. Watling who has held three catches in the innings and 12 in the series so far.
Siriwardana hit five fours and three sixes from 81 balls and Mathews had also hit three sixes among eight boundaries in his 111-ball innings when rain ended the day’s play with 23 overs left to bowl.
Boult removed Sirirwardana, then Kithuruwan Vithanage (0) in the space of three balls before Kane Williamson’s direct hit from gully ran out Rangana Herath (4). Sri Lanka lost three wickets within 13 balls and for five runs during that period, allowing New Zealand to balance the match a little by stumps.
“It was a pretty good fight back after the Sri Lankans batted well across the whole day,” Boult said. “The wicket was pretty green and there was a bit of movement out there but not as much swing as what I thought there might be.”