Late wickets puncture SL's aggression
Sri Lanka 264 for 7 (Mathews 63*, Siriwardene 62) v New Zealand
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
"This is as green as it gets," said former New Zealand batsman Craig Cumming of the Seddon Park pitch. The seam and swing on offer was far from unplayable, though, and through a combination of enterprising batting, impatient bowling and some luck, Sri Lanka made 264 in the day at a run rate of just under four an over before rain ended play at 4.30 pm.
Sri Lanka combated the conditions with aggression. They had been submissive on an easier surface in Dunedin but today they stood up to New Zealand, lashing the swinging ball through the off side and pulling short deliveries instead of weaving and ducking. Kusal Mendis set the pace, Dinesh Chandimal accelerated, and when the innings was in danger of unravelling because of that aggression, Angelo Mathews tempered it to suitable levels. Once Mathews and Milinda Siriwardana had settled, however, they produced the strongest partnership of the innings, adding 138 runs at 4.60 an over.
Until three quick wickets in the final session gave New Zealand acceptable returns, the day had defied popular perceptions after Brendon McCullum began his 99th successive Test - a new record for consecutive matches from debut - by giving his attack first use of the grassy surface in Hamilton.
Trent Boult, in particular, and Tim Southee tried too hard - looking to swing the new ball prodigiously when a McGrath-like line would have sufficed - and were not on a good length around off stump often enough. Ross Taylor dropped a catch at slip; McCullum failed to nail two run-out chances; Doug Bracewell hit the stumps but the bails didn't fall. Mendis was the beneficiary each time. Several other edges did not go to hand, and New Zealand also exhausted their reviews on lbw appeals - against Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal - inside the first 16 overs.
Southee got it right either side of the first drinks break, his outswingers drawing the inside edge from Dimuth Karunaratne and the outside edge from Mendis. The wicketkeeper BJ Watling caught both, adding to his nine dismissals in the first Test.
Sri Lanka were 44 for 2 when Chandimal edged his first delivery through the cordon for four. He then launched his counterattack. An over from Bracewell featured smooth drives down the ground and through cover, and a fierce cut over point. It read: 2,2,4,4, dot, 4. Chandimal laid into Neil Wagner too, lofting over mid-off, driving through and carving over cover.
Udara Jayasundera, playing only his second Test, was also aggressive. He flicked and pulled the left-armers Boult and Wagner, and his aggression against the short ball was a sea change from how he had struggled against it Dunedin.
Sri Lanka's advantageous position of 108 for 2 eroded quickly after lunch, though. Jayasundera was run out attempting a second that Chandimal did not want, and Chandimal added only six runs to his lunch score of 41 before being caught behind playing the cover drive against Bracewell. They had added 71 at 4.43 an over.
Having taken two wickets for 13 runs, McCullum tried to subdue Sri Lanka once again. Wagner began his short-ball attack with a leg gully, backward short leg and a long leg. Mathews and Siriwardana pulled when they could, middling some balls, top-edging others over the keeper for six. They were watchful too, mindful of the long tail after them, but refused to be beaten into stagnation.
Having scored 90 runs in the second session, Sri Lanka turned it on after tea. Siriwardene and Mathews charged the left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner, who had bowled so economically in Dunedin, and hit him repeatedly over the long-on boundary. One of those sixes brought up the 100 stand in 22.4 overs and Mathews' fifty off 87 balls. They went after Bracewell too, not allowing him to perform his controlling role. Siriwardene pulled for a flat six, and then caressed the ball through the covers to bring up his fifty.
Hamilton had been sunny in the morning but as it began to cloud over after tea, the ball began to hoop once again. Boult repaired his figures with a double-strike in an over, his movement away from Siriwardene resulting in an edge to slip, where Taylor juggled but caught it. Three balls later, Kithuruwan Vithanage closed the face too early and the leading edge was taken low by McCullum diving forward at mid-off.
Sri Lanka suffered another run out before the day ended, when Mathews called for a risky single towards cover. Williamson swooped on the ball from gully and his direct hit dismissed Herath. Losing three wickets for five runs just before the rain was a blight on an otherwise spirited performance from a young visiting side in tough conditions.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo