New Zealand v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Hamilton, 1st day December 18, 2015

Late wickets puncture SL's aggression


Sri Lanka 264 for 7 (Mathews 63*, Siriwardene 62) v New Zealand
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Angelo Mathews was unbeaten on 63 when rain ended play © Getty Images

"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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Yasein on December 18, 2015, 21:49 GMT

    Wrong decision at the toss i reckon. It looks much harder to bad today than yesterday. Lets hope guppy can silence the haters on a tough pitch to play on.

  • carl on December 18, 2015, 21:45 GMT

    2015, the year of batsmen not adding to their overnight score, 2014, the year of the tailender, 2016? any guesses?

  • sriyantha on December 18, 2015, 20:53 GMT

    Kithruwan (odi Av 15 / List-A Av 20) for ODIs.??

    Anyway, Vithanage is IDEAL replacement for Odi batting INCONSISTENCY World Record Holder Kusal Perera (Overall Odi Av 27 from 49 Odis / Under 10 ball-single-digit inngs: 19 innings - 69 runs - 9 HS - 3.63 Average - 125 balls faced - 55.20 SR) :D))

    He just made a 3 ball DUCK at Hamilton & some 38 runs on a flattened deck in previous Test, mostly facing spinners without facing a single Boult delivery & survived to face just 2 balls from Southee, where even No.10 batter Lakmal managed a 27 ball 22 runs with 4 boundaries facing 21 balls from Boult, Southee, Bracewel combo.

    Booom... Kithruwan becomes a transformed hero even suitable for odi spot, despite having managed 152 runs with misserable 14.1 batting Average, from his most recent 11 TEST innings (including latest).

    The reality is, Kithruwan doesn't even have the bare minimum productivity credentials in recent history, to be in this Test squad. His record speaks for himself. Cheers!

  • jared on December 18, 2015, 20:32 GMT

    @ Hatsforbats, I think boult is being protected a bit but southee is OK, they are out of the odi's to try and get them right because its been a slow start to the summer by their standards, hope they come right soon they might be able to bluff their way through srilanka but they will be found out against oz going in half baked.

  • Shane on December 18, 2015, 19:57 GMT

    @DUNGER.BOB - no worries. Always good to chat with a good, honest cricket fan.

  • Maurice on December 18, 2015, 19:41 GMT

    Sri Lanka would be on top, if it wasn't for the run outs. Has Mendis bought a lotto ticket tonight? - he would be in line to win 1st division with his luck!

  • Yohaan on December 18, 2015, 19:11 GMT

    SL Selectors' Super Staaaaar Kithruwan Vithanage improved his record with another 3 ball Golden Duckkkkiiii,,,, to collect MASSIVE 153 runs for greatest Team SL @ 14 Av from his recent 11 TEST innings! No Suprises..... he was selected to play ODIs with his unique overall super record of 15 Av in Odis & 20 Av in List-A ! Fantastic replacement for equally productive/consistent Kusal Perera who holds the prestige world record for most inconsistent odi opener with 20 single-digit, under 10 ball innings in global scene, since his debut in 2013!

  • Ranil on December 18, 2015, 17:44 GMT

    @johnthekiwi ,that's good timing, not like from here through the whole night!

  • John on December 18, 2015, 17:26 GMT

    Indian comments going on about this pitch. Now there's a thing.

  • mukesh on December 18, 2015, 17:25 GMT

    Awesome performance by Srilanka . Alien conditions like this and still getting job done. I expected same thing from all top nations to do there job and not crib about conditions. Mathews has always been best player after seniors retirement.

    -Indian Fan

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