REUTERS – Sri Lanka’s hopes of getting close to New Zealand’s first innings total on Saturday rest on the shoulders of Dinesh Chandimal after he and Dimuth Karunaratne obstinately defied the Kiwi bowlers for much of the second day of the first test at University Oval in Dunedin.
Dismissed for 431 early in the first session, the hosts reduced Sri Lanka to 29 for two when Karunaratne (84) and Chandimal combined in a patient 122-run partnership before the left-handed opener was dismissed in the final session.
With Angelo Mathews falling for two, just five runs later, Sri Lanka’s inexperienced side will now look to Chandimal to build on their close of play score of 197 for four and ensure they do not concede a mammoth first innings lead.
The 26-year-old Chandimal, who is his country’s leading test run scorer in 2015 and assumed the mantle of the critical number four spot left by the retirement of Mahela Jayawardene, ended play on 83 and within sight of his sixth test century.
New Zealand have only bowled one over with the second new ball, however, and opening bowler Trent Boult felt there was still enough in the wicket to put pressure on Sri Lanka early on the third day.
“If we can get one early the cliche is one brings two and we’ll be into the tail and that starts with (Rangana) Herath at eight,” Boult told reporters about the importance of breaking Chandimal’s partnership with Kithuruwan Vithanage, who was on 10. “That’s the incentive.
“We’re looking to turn up and put a strong foot forward.”
Karunaratne and Chandimal had weathered a tough working over from New Zealand’s four-pronged pace attack and looked well settled to bat through until the close to drag their side closer to parity.
Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner, however, managed to break their partnership when Karunaratne went to cut a delivery that did not turn and only succeeded in getting an edge to wicketkeeper BJ Watling for his third catch of the innings.
The 30-year-old took his fourth catch when Tim Southee tempted Mathews with a full delivery on leg stump and he got a faint inside edge before the ball also brushed his pad.
Umpire Nigel Llong, who was the centre of controversy as the third umpire in New Zealand’s last test in Adelaide, initially gave the Sri Lankan captain not out but Paul Reiffel overturned the decision after Brendon McCullum asked for a review.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O’Brien/Sudipto Ganguly/Amlan Chakraborty)