Watling pleased with seamers' toil
BJ Watling praised the New Zealand quicks' perseverance on what was a drier day for them than the previous one, in which they had taken 10 wickets.
The hosts' seamers only claimed half that amount on day three, but conceded just 209 runs. Sri Lanka had battled towards parity with big partnerships for the third and fourth wickets, but Trent Boult claimed two wickets in his last spell and further strengthened New Zealand's dominance.
"The boys kept running in there and we've bowled a lot of overs there now," Watling said, "But to see Tim Southee and Trent Boult coming in at the end there was pleasing. To not let them get away on us was crucial, and then to get the bang-bang tonight just put us in a position where we felt more comfortable.
"That final spell was a great example of how much the bowlers have improved. Tim did not get the rewards today and Trent did. To come that hard after 30-odd overs, and get enough nip, swing and ask a lot of questions was great. He did that to the new guys coming in as well, and put them under pressure."
Watling said New Zealand had expected the visitors to fight harder than they had so far in the Test, and praised Dimuth Karunaratne's 152, which has left Sri Lanka within 10 runs of wiping out the 303-run first innings deficit.
"They definitely batted a lot better today. I think the wickets is day three and has got a bit better. Karunaratne played extremely well to deny us his wicket for the majority of the day, and it took a great delivery from Trent to finish him off. It was frustrating not to get him. He played an exceptional innings in the circumstances."
Watling said that while the pitch was getting better for batting, there was still plenty in it for the bowlers to exploit. Seam movement has been prevalent throughout the match, but offspinner Mark Craig extracted substantial turn on day three as well.
"I thought pidge bowled beautifully without a lot of luck. He was getting a few balls to spit, which was good. He is a tall bowler and got a lot of bounce. He asked good questions and tied up an end for us. There were a lot of balls going past the edge still, and a few half-chances popping around."
Sri Lanka have Angelo Mathews at the crease, not out on 53, alongside nightwatchman Tharindu Kaushal. Prasanna Jayawardene - the final recognised batsman - is yet to bat. Though Sri Lanka are still behind New Zealand, Karunaratne said there was hope of pulling off an unlikely win.
"We saw, in the latter part, some turn in the wicket," he said. "Angie is there and Prasanna also is there. If we can score another 150 to 175, it would be a good score with this wicket. If the fast bowlers can get a few wickets with the new ball then, we will be in a good position."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando