(Reuters) – A Seddon Park pitch so green it was barely distinguishable from the outfield had dominated the buildup to the second test between New Zealand and Sri Lanka with many fearing the batsmen would suffer most on the volatile surface.
The first day’s play on Friday, however, put paid to any theories that conditions in the middle would be unplayable with the visitors reaching 264 for seven before heavy rain forced them off with 23 overs lost to the weather.
On paper, the home side may hold the upper hand having reached the tail with less than 300 runs on the board, though it was only one stellar over from Trent Boult and two run outs that had given Brendon McCullum’s side a marginal advantage.
Sri Lanka, who had been so tentative in the 122-run loss in Dunedin, were far more aggressive at Seddon Park with Kusal Mendis (31) setting a tone that Dinesh Chandimal (47), Angelo Mathews (63 not out) and Milinda Siriwardana (62) followed.
“They batted pretty well across the whole day actually,” Boult told Radio Sport after play was abandoned at about 5 pm (0400 GMT). “They knocked up about 110 in the first couple of hours.
“We could tell that they were looking to jump on our bad balls and credit to them, they batted very well.”
Despite having a four-pronged pace attack at their disposal, New Zealand failed to create any sustained pressure and were fortunate they took wickets in bunches.
The first two wickets, to Tim Southee, fell within five runs of each other, the third and fourth within six runs, and the final three wickets of the day for just five runs.
“The odd ball an over was letting us down in terms of trying to build pressure,” Boult said.
“We just had to go out there and put the ball in the right area but a couple of balls really let us down there. I think we missed a trick there a little bit.
“The positive is that we did manage to group them nicely and get them seven down.”
Boult, who said there was good pace and bounce in the wicket but not as much sideways movement as might have been expected, produced arguably the best over of the day with the older ball as the clouds thickened and inched towards the ground.
He coaxed Siriwardana into an edge then had Kithurawan Vithanage caught by McCullum at mid-off for a duck three balls later after he got a leading edge to a swinging delivery.
“When the sun’s out it doesn’t swing as much as you think it’s going to (and) when the clouds came in just before the rain it started to swing a bit more,” he said.
“It’s a good wicket and I think it will be at its best late tomorrow and on day three.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O’Brien)