Silva powers Sri Lankan lead
Powered by Chamara Silva's second half-century in this Test, Sri Lanka overcame a top-order wobble to finish the second day in the driving seat with a sizeable 363-run lead. Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan polished off the New Zealand innings in the morning, sharing nine wickets and bowling out the hosts for a paltry 130, to give Sri Lanka a firm grip on the game, and despite a mini collapse after lunch, Silva ensured it wasn't slackened.
Joining Mahela Jayawardene with Sri Lanka tottering at 100 for 4 after New Zealand clawed their way back into the game - thanks to key strikes from Chris Martin, Shane Bond and Daniel Vettori - Silva helped his side get back on track. He came into the game after a pair on debut knowing that failure in Wellington would jeopardise his chances of resuscitating a career that first started as a 19-year-old in 1999. Back then there were early comparisons with Aravinda de Silva and this afternoon there were flashes of the de Silva genius too as he countered Vettori's negative tactics with two beautiful lofted cover drives.
Indeed, although New Zealand tried to clamp down on the scoring rate, Silva scored his runs at a healthy pace, finishing with an unbeaten 79 off just 114 balls. He pounced on any opportunity to score, especially against Vettori whom he played with soft hands and aggressive intent. He was also organised and compact against the pace bowlers, finishing the day with a great opportunity to score a maiden hundred and secure a regular berth in Sri Lanka's middle order.
Sri Lanka cemented their dominance in the final session with Jayawardene and Silva batting through the first hour, adding 68 and pushing New Zealand onto the defensive. As the lead topped 300, Stephen Fleming instructed Vettori to bowl in Ashely Giles-like mode, pitching ball outside leg from over the wicket. The ploy worked too - albeit fortuitously - as Jayawardene was wrongly adjudged to have been caught down the legside when the ball brushed his pad.
New Zealand perked up briefly having exposed Sri Lanka's lower order with Bond increasing in pace and Vettori attacking again from around the wicket. But Silva's new partner Prasanna Jayawardene - reprieved at slip off Nathan Astle and hit painfully on the elbow by Bond - proved as obdurate as his captain, helping compile an unbroken 57-run stand that left New Zealand needing to create history to save the match.
Silva's innings was in keeping with manner in which Sri Lanka began the day. A cold, gusty morning started with the Sri Lankans wrapped up in sweaters, but Malinga wasted no time in warming up as Brendon McCullum (43), the innings top-scorer, was dropped in the gully by Sanath Jayasuriya. Malinga could not be denied for long though as a perfect late-swinging yorker crashed through Mathew Sinclair's defences (75 for 5). He left McCullum bruised and battered, first striking him painfully on the heel and later on the hand - an injury that forced New Zealand to use Sinclair as a reserve 'keeper in the second innings. Fierce bumpers were mixed with searing toe crushers, some of which curved in late.
Muttiah Muralitharan too joined the fun, picking up four wickets and making short work of the tailenders. Both Jacob Oram and James Franklin failed to read the doosra and were adjudged lbw, Bond was also adjudged lbw, and McCullum was the last to go, bowled by another doosra as he gave Muralitharan the charge.
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent