Jayawardene and Dilshan put Sri Lanka in control
A wonderfully composed 26th Test century from Mahela Jayawardene and a thrill-a-minute 92 from Tillakaratne Dilshan allowed Sri Lanka to dominate the opening day's play after two early wickets from Chris Martin had given New Zealand the perfect start in overcast conditions in Galle. Thilan Samaraweera weighed in with an unbeaten 82, adding 159 with Jayawardene, and by the time the players went off for bad light, New Zealand were down for the count.
The start had been delayed by 90 minutes and the New Zealanders had reason to feel smug 40 minutes after winning the toss, but a rapid 118-run stand quickly wiped the smiles off their faces. Dilshan drove and cut like a dream, and at a pace that made you wonder whether he was practising for the Delhi Daredevils' Champions League campaign later this year. The fastest century ever by a Sri Lankan was easily within reach when he cut a delivery from Iain O'Brien back on to the stumps. By then, he had 92 from 72 balls, and the hapless O'Brien had gone at more than nine an over.
Jayawardene's approach was much less helter-skelter and far more measured. There were the characteristically lovely drives through the covers and the beautiful late twirls of the wrist that sent the ball to third man, but there were also periods of dogged defence against the accurate left-arm spin of Daniel Vettori. There was a period after tea when he appeared bereft of inspiration, but once he stepped out to off-drive Vettori for four, the fluency came surging back.
Martin was clipped through midwicket for four and when O'Brien dropped one short, an emphatic pull for four took him to his 18th hundred on home soil, at the very venue where he had scored his first 11 years ago. Samaraweera had been the perfect foil, taking time to play himself in and then playing some magnificent shots himself. New Zealand had quietened things with a couple of maidens after tea, but Samaraweera released the pressure with three boundaries off Jeetan Patel - a cover-drive, a cut and a glorious back-foot punch.
New Zealand could scarcely have imagined such a leather-hunt after the start they got. Martin's two wickets had taken him to 162, past Danny Morrison and on to No. 4 in New Zealand's all-time list. It took him just three balls to make an impact. Malinda Warnapura had been dropped and Dilshan asked to open, but the other opener, Tharanga Paranavitana, was soon on his way, edging one behind. And after Kumar Sangakkara had clipped two lovely leg-side boundaries, there was an air of disbelief around the ground as he struck one straight to Daniel Flynn at midwicket.
Dilshan had watched all this from the other end, but it didn't inhibit him in any way. He had started with a fluid drive for four off O'Brien, and the part-time blogger was soon being subjected to harsh treatment. There were three ferocious off-side fours in one over, and when O'Brien dropped short, he was pulled for six. An elegant cover-drive later, Dilshan had his half-century from just 30 balls.
Jayawardene got off the mark with a languid drive for four off Martin, and he kept picking the off-side gaps at regular intervals. Jacob Oram and Vettori slowed down the run-rate, but with both batsmen driving Patel beautifully through the covers, Sri Lanka were into three figures long before the luncheon bell rang. There was no respite after that either, with Dilshan slamming O'Brien over cover and then pulling contemptuously for four more. A fierce cut took him into the 90s, but with history beckoning, he lost the plot.
There was a lull thereafter, but once Jayawardene eased to his 50 from 104 balls, the scoring rate picked up again. Oram was guided fine twice and Martin then driven superbly through cover. When Samaraweera cut Patel for four to bring up the 200, Vettori was looking around for wicket-taking options. There didn't seem any. Martin bowled a decent spell with the old ball just before stumps, but the rest, Vettori apart, leaked runs, and two majestic pulls from Samaraweera off the horribly expensive O'Brien were the perfect bookend to a hugely satisfactory day for the Lankans.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo