New Zealand v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Hamilton, 3rd day December 20, 2015

Williamson takes NZ closer, but SL keep fighting

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New Zealand 237 (Guptill 50, Chameera 5-47) and 142 for 5 (Williamson 78*, Chameera 4-45) need another 47 runs to beat Sri Lanka 292 (Mathews 77, Siriwardana 62, Southee 3-63) and 133 (Mendis 46, Southee 4-26, Wagner 3-40)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Kane Williamson rose to the challenge of the short ball, when the rest simply crumbled © Getty Images

The sun was out, the sky was blue and the Sunday crowd added to a picture postcard day in Hamilton. Sri Lanka took a trip to Seddon Park to while the time away with a bit of cricket and were ambushed by New Zealand's bouncers.

Sri Lanka began the day needing one wicket to end New Zealand's first innings; they got it in six balls. Then came their best opening stand in 2015 - 71 runs - and then they lost 10 wickets for 62 runs in 13.5 overs to hasten the Test to its climax. The hosts need 47 more for victory, and they have Kane Williamson at the crease, looking at a century and the record for most Test runs by a New Zealander in a calendar year. He is 22 runs away from both landmarks.

Sri Lanka kept the contest alive with a few late strikes, and need five more to level the series. But they would rue the batting collapse earlier in the day - a wicket every six runs. You would think Tim Southee and company pulled elephants out of their hats to make that happen. Nope, all they did was decide they'd bowl short. Dimuth Karunaratne and Udara Jayasundera fell fending. Dinesh Chandimal picked out leg gully. Kusal Mendis, the top-scorer with 46, and Angelo Mathews, the captain, fell hooking and to cap it all off, there was a comical run out involving the tailenders. Nuwan Pradeep and Dushmantha Chameera were clumped at the keeper's end, giving a gleeful Neil Wagner the time to collect the throw from third man, run to the other end and knock the stumps over.

The bounce on this Hamilton pitch has been ample and true. Batsmen were given the luxury to leave balls even on middle stump if the length was short. They wouldn't be bowled, but no one from either side has caught onto that fact. As a result 31 of the 35 wickets in this Test have been out caught.

The other trait of this surface - its sharpish pace - may have worked against the batsmen though. So too the number of catching fielders for the defensive shot. Leg slip and short leg were permanent fixtures and as the day wore on, New Zealand dabbled with silly point, short midwicket and a fly slip as well. The ball was coming onto the bat, so aggressive strokes seemed a pertinent option to evade them. Except Sri Lanka couldn't.

Tom Latham and Martin Guptill fared no better in the second innings against Chameera. Williamson, even with a bum right knee, kept Sri Lanka at bay by putting on 67 runs with Ross Taylor and 52 more with Brendon McCullum. It took Chameera to break both stands and that was Sri Lanka's problem; none of the others made New Zealand nervous, until three minutes to the stumps when a lovely Suranga Lakmal outswinger got rid of Mitchell Santner.

There has been clear cut phases of play whenever this match has turned - Chandimal's ferocity on the first day, Chameera's burst on the second and on the third, it was Doug Bracewell's two wickets in three balls.

Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis had controlled the innings capably until then. They had walked out with a 55-run first-innings advantage on the back of their mind and the responsibility of turning that into a match-winning one on their shoulders. They were together for 22.4 overs; an age of prosperity in the context of the chaos that followed.

It took an excellent delivery to break through their resolve, and it took a lot out of the bowler Bracewell as well. He had just changed ends, and changed tactics as well. Every ball of the 23rd over was short and the fourth one came right at Karunaratne's nose. He was stuck in the crease and could only fend it into the slips. Two balls later, Jayasundera was walking back. He had barely marked his guard when a ripper of a short ball came his way. The attempt to sway away seemed to have worked - New Zealand's appeal was denied by on-field umpire Paul Reiffel - but DRS came into the picture to change all that.

It had seemed a straightforward call for TV umpire Richard Kettleborough when a flash appeared on Jayasundera's glove as the ball went past. The problem though was it vanished in the next frame. There was no spike on real time snicko either. But a zoomed-in camera angle from behind the batsman broke the deadlock. There seemed to be definite deflection, Kettleborough said he saw the glove move as well and gave it out.

Reiffel looked rather disgruntled as his call was overruled and Jayasundera was even more so as he made a slow trudge back. Later, a split-screen replay indicated the change in direction happened before the ball was anywhere near the glove. Kettleborough did not get to see this though at the time of his adjudication.

Sri Lanka's rage against the (DRS) machine would grow later in the day when Taylor survived a close lbw shout. Rangana Herath, who had induced the mistake by getting the ball to straighten, walked off in a stormy mood as replays showed the impact was marginally outside off. Had umpire Reiffel given it, DRS would have ended up confirming that and New Zealand could have been 34 for 3.

Barring that episode, it was pace that had the greatest impact. Specifically bouncers, which are Wagner's strength. He nabbed Chandimal, Sri Lanka's best batsman of the series, at leg gully. Sri Lanka's best batsman of the morning though was Mendis. He was approaching a maiden Test fifty at lunch, having weathered a blow to his right hand. It didn't hurt his timing too much, considering the eight fours he had. Going for another one soon after the break to claim the landmark, he picked out square leg and Santner took a stunning catch on the boundary's edge. Eighty-nine balls of hard work undone by a poor shot. It broke Southee's duck in the wickets column, he went on to take four of them. Less than as many Sri Lanka batsmen made it to double-figures.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on December 21, 2015, 23:53 GMT

    @RATHNE: I have seen you backing for Kithruwan & KJP many times in the past forums, despite their dispicable failures. Also, you have posted many false info against Tharanga as some others in the same bandwagon to demean him. I wonder wheather this is because, Vithanage in test & KJP in odis clearly stole Upul's spot through nepotism rather than perormances?

    How come you picked the only occasion (occasional failure common to any good batter) Ut failed vs ind, from 12 inngs given since his return after 7 year excile? Are you accessing his overall performance factoring just that based on the 2 random tests given for 2015? How come you missed the 400 runs he scored from previous 10 innings @ 40 average, including a series winning performance with 68 Av v pk in decider? What about 47 Av @ No 3, just after Sanga left? Isn't this consistency above all (Thirimanne, Kithruwan, KJP, DK, Mubarak, Silva & even Mathews,who were granted much more consecutive chances) during the same period?

  • Dinesh on December 21, 2015, 2:58 GMT

    @dhanuhskaS

    I am not Kithruwan Fan or Tharanga Fan.. Both of them are tested failures. As a example much hyped Tharanga could manage only 98 runs in 4 innings in 2015. Also check the A tours matches , he could not perform as expected. so omission was understandable. I agree with you on 1 thing.Kithruwan is worst than Tharanga..

    we need to give chances to youngsters like Rohesn Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhanuska Gunathilake.Infact Dickwella and Roshen got 100's against New Zealand A in last October....

  • ideal on December 20, 2015, 23:34 GMT

    Well done NZ. Well fought SL. I hope NZ pays back Aus when they have return series shortly.

  • Rici on December 20, 2015, 23:19 GMT

    Ho Sri Lanka !!! When is Sri Lanka captain going to step down ????? Upul Tharanga save your nation, they are in trouble.

  • Merv on December 20, 2015, 22:57 GMT

    NZ are a bit of a one-man batting side these days, dependent on Williamson, who was rather challenged by Chameera at the start of both of his innings. That said SL severely miss Sanga and his reliability. A solid win by NZ at home but closer than it looks perhaps as SL wasted their opportunity in the second innings by slogging themselves out in many cases. 275 to chase would have been a different equation.

  • Debashis on December 20, 2015, 22:53 GMT

    Good Test match ! This lad Chameera is quite a handful. BMac should have stayed patient. Kane Williamson.....what a batsman !! Fantastic to watch. Congratulations to NZ.

  • Chatty on December 20, 2015, 22:41 GMT

    I hope Chameera has good bones and joints in his body. If he does, he can do some serious damage at the international level for many years to come.

  • Amila on December 20, 2015, 21:53 GMT

    Poor Captaincy from Mathiews ,NZ has only 32 runs to get and SL Captain is trying to win it by not giving runs rather than trying to take wickets

  • Simon on December 20, 2015, 20:40 GMT

    @Marcio Let's see Smith move around like a grasshopper on the crease at the age of 31. Probably pull something while the bowler is running in. Can argue all you want about Smith v Kane but who's higher ranked in ODI? Kane, who's going to be #1 ranked test batter in a days time? Kane. Scored more runs this year, younger, better technique. Williamson has more upside than Smith.

  • Weeramuni on December 20, 2015, 20:26 GMT

    Thirimana / U tharanga / Kusal Perera need bring back instead of Jayasundra / Kithurivan / D karunarathna . Bz D karunarathna not a potential icon when compar the other test players , that's kind of players good only for domestic not for the international . Chandimal / Mathew / Siriwardana is a good players . Also fast bowlers need to right technology . We didn't see feeling plan & game plan but sudenly bloom Chamara icon that's good for Sri Lankan future but he need right technology . Baring is faling at end for bounces . There no single players playing & defence for that bowling atack , our old players very tactic full for play that shot who is the masters for that ( Aravinda / Jayasuriua / Athapathu / Sanga ) .Team need knowledgable coach . Champika ramanayaka is old fashion & wasting time , we not blaming Wejeratna Bz he is acting coach untill find best coach. Who ever playing or who ever coaching thing Bz don't wasting money & time it's belongs to our all nation people.

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