Black Caps close in on record win in second test against Sri Lanka

Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sunday, 30 December 2018, 9:27AM
Neil Wagner celebrates the wicket of Dinesh Chandimal of Sri Lanka. (Photo / Photosport)

The Black Caps will have to wait just a little bit longer to create history.

A fighting batting performance from Sri Lanka has extended the second test to a fifth day at Hagley Oval, keeping New Zealand's celebrations on ice – for now.

The Black Caps still need four wickets to secure a record fourth straight test series victory, but that shouldn't be a problem. One of those wickets – Angelo Mathews – is hobbling around on one leg after retiring hurt due to a hamstring injury, while after the overnight pair of Dilruwan Perera (22) and Suranga Lakmal (16), the remaining tail enders have never reached 20 in tests.

Unlike in the first test, rain will not save them either, with clear skies forecast for the final day in Christchurch, and the Black Caps should have the full day – and a casual 429 runs – to play with to claim what would be a record win.

However, Sri Lanka are making them work for it, fighting creditably on day four, having come into the day behind by a staggering 636 runs, and with eight wickets remaining. But, for all the early determination offered by Dinesh Chandimal (56) and Kusal Mendis (67), it required an effort of the herculean variety to keep Sri Lanka in the test.

For a while though, the Black Caps would have been having flashbacks. Chandimal and Mendis batted through the first session, reminiscent of Mendis and Mathews' record day four at the Basin Reserve, where they went the whole day without losing a wicket.

Captain Kane Williamson had a license to produce some attacking fields, and did so, leaving cover open for large portions of the day to tempt the batsmen, and also producing some legside fields for the trademark short ball barrage.

It was two moments of brilliance that made the difference. Matt Henry – for so long the unlucky odd man out in the Black Caps seam attack – still made an impact as a substitute fielder, taking a superb diving low catch to his left at short extra cover to remove Mendis, and end his partnership of 117 with Chandimal.

Neil Wagner was the thrilled recipient of Henry's handiwork, and he also removed Chandimal after tea with a scorching short ball which lobbed off the glove of the ducking skipper to an awaiting Henry Nicholls at short leg, leaving the firebrand bowler to raise a finger to his lips in celebration.

In between, Sri Lanka had some bad luck, with Mathews having to hobble off with a hamstring injury, being unable to do more than hop between the wickets on one leg.
It is likely to rule him out of the ODI series, and potentially their upcoming tour of Australia, though he could return tomorrow to resume his innings. It would likely only help to reduce the eventual margin of defeat though, after Sri Lanka lost two further wickets in the final session to put New Zealand on the brink of victory.

After replacing Mathews at the tea break, Roshen Silva battled for 73 balls before undoing his hard work by probing at a delivery from Wagner, while Niroshan Dickwella went for a needless swat to Tim Southee, and chopped onto his stumps.

A victory looked in store as the overs wound down and the light dimmed, but Perera and Lakmal ducked, dodged, and fended off a late onslaught, to ensure that Sri Lanka would live to fight another day.


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