Seamers Give New Zealand Control


NEW ZEALAND – After grinding out 412 in the better part of two days, New Zealand tightened their control of the second Test with an incisive spell by their seamers to nip out three wickets – the fulcrum of the top order – before stumps on the second day. A combination of poor shots and a probing line by Tim Southee and Trent Boult left Sri Lanka at 12 for 3 by the sixth over. New Zealand were just as penetrative in Galle, but the difference here was that bowlers had the cushion of runs to work with. Earlier, Rangana Herath picked up another five-wicket haul – his sixth in 2012 – to give Sri Lanka something to shout about after a tough opening day.

The New Zealand seamers managed more swing with the new ball than the hosts, but it was the straighter one that consumed Tillakaratne Dilshan. After crashing his first ball past cover, he played down the wrong line to Southee and was bowled through the gate. Two balls later, Kumar Sangakkara was surprised by a short one but went through with the hook, only to find fine leg. Mahela Jayawardene played and missed at Trent Boult, and after edging a boundary past the slips, fished at one that moved away and drove straight to Kane Williamson at gully. With the three big guns going cheaply, New Zealand couldn’t have asked for a more ideal start.

After a one-sided opening day, Sri Lanka redressed the balance just when New Zealand would have entertained thoughts of posting a total in excess of 500, given the solid foundation provided by the overnight pair of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, who had batted nearly 97 overs across four sessions. Williamson has been praised for his temperament and ability to play spin better than his more experienced colleagues in the batting line-up. His century on the second morning was his third in his two-year career and second in the subcontinent, including a debut ton against India.

Sri Lanka’s seamers did pose some questions with the new ball, getting marginally more swing than on the first morning. What Sri Lanka lacked was variety. They needed a seamer to hit the deck hard and extract bounce with the new ball.

Williamson, overnight on 95, remained watchful. He brought up his century with an outside edge that went for four to third man, the first boundary of the morning. The pair, in the process passed the New Zealand record for the highest third-wicket stand away from home, beating the 224 between John F Reid and Martin Crowe in Brisbane.

With the pitch not taking turn, only a mistake from the batsman could have yielded a wicket. Taylor moved across his stumps to sweep Herath but was caught in front of the leg stump, ending the 262-run stand. Williamson too perished in similar manner to the same bowler and Sri Lanka removed the centurions in quick succession. There was room for another breakthrough when Kruger van Wyk missed a straight one from Tillakaratne Dilshan, with the score on 291 for 5. A score of 400 seemed a long way off, but Daniel Flynn put them on that path.

After lunch, Herath struck again when he trapped the debutant Todd Astle lbw padding up to an arm ball. There was turn and bounce on the second-day pitch, but Flynn and Doug Bracewell ensured New Zealand didn’t get rolled over quickly. Flynn was solid in defense, played the ball late and pushed the singles.

Jayawardene tried creating chances by placing several close fielders. Herath bowled round the wicket to Flynn with a short leg, backward short leg, short midwicket and short mid-on waiting for the chipped shot on the on side. Flynn was careful with the sweep and focused on blocking out the spin with his defense.

Bracewell was positive using his feet against the spinners but perished after holing out to deep midwicket for 24. Flynn was happy to push the singles and give the strike to the lower order, who hung around to annoy the hosts as they looked to keep New Zealand under 400. Flynn brought up his half-century by paddling a full toss shortly before the tea break. Herath wrapped up the innings shortly after tea, trapping Flynn on the backfoot and then bowling Boult, taking him one short of equaling Graeme Swann, who leads the wicket charts for 2012 with 53.

With the early burst of wickets, Sri Lanka’s thoughts had turned to passing the follow on target, which is still 170 away. The other worry for Sri Lanka was that Thilan Samaraweera had injured his finger while attempting a catch at slip and didn’t come out to bat.

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