'Clawed our way back in last half hour' - Southee
A change in atmospheric conditions as rain closed in on the ground may have played a role in New Zealand's late surge, Tim Southee has said. Sri Lanka had been 259 for 4 after 64 overs before Trent Boult claimed two wickets in an over. He first had Milinda Siriwardana nicking an away-seamer to first slip, before Kithuruwan Vithanage's leg-side flick took the leading edge three deliveries later. That ball carried to a diving Brendon McCullum at mid off, before Rangana Herath was run out soon after, to leave Sri Lanka 264 for 7. Stumps were called when rain became heavier after 66 overs.
"When the temperature dropped towards the end of the day, it wasn't as humid, and then it started swinging more," Southee said. "I guess it had something to do with the overhead conditions and we made the most of that little period where it clouded over before the rain. Trent's spell tonight was good."
Southee said that period of play had helped make up for New Zealand's lacklustre first session, in which Sri Lanka hit 108 for 2 in seaming conditions. The hosts had won the toss and given their quicks first use of the pitch.
"I guess we started okay, but probably didn't use what was in wicket as much as we could have," he said. "I don't think we executed to our liking in the first couple of hours. Went past the bat a little bit but didn't create enough pressure in first session. We clawed our way back in the last half an hour. It's a lot better than two for whatever at lunch time, when they would have been sitting pretty."
Southee was the pick of New Zealand's bowlers for much of the day, taking 2 for 51 from his 16 overs. Doug Bracewell and Neil Wagner were more expensive, but Southee said both those bowlers had been unlucky. The final ball of Bracewell's first over had clipped the top of off stump, but hadn't removed the bail.
"Dougie bowled - and has bowled for long time - very well, without a lot of luck," Southee said. "Today he was getting a bit closer, hitting stumps and bails not come off. He bowled outstandingly through the back end of the Aussie tour and in Dunedin, without rewards."
Later, Wagner troubled Sri Lanka's middle order with the short ball, but the batsmen's edges did not travel to the fielders.
"The short ball was something we used in Dunedin to great success, and it was worth a crack. Wags was a bit unlucky with top edges that went over the rope, but it's something we'll continue to use over the next few days."
Angelo Mathews was not out on 63 by stumps, and Southee said his wicket was crucial to New Zealand's chances of restricting Sri Lanka on day two. "The first hour is crucial, especially with the new ball just around the corner. But it won't be easy with Angelo still there as a big wicket. He can work with the tail and does score at a good clip, so it is important we bowl well, especially to him."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando