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August 19, 2009
Having seen Thilan Samaraweera strike a magnificent 159 and take Sri Lanka to 452, New Zealand responded strongly in the final session, with Tim McIntosh leading the resistance to the twin-spin threat. The loss of Daniel Flynn just before stumps changed the complexion somewhat, but New Zealand still deserved plaudits for sticking to the task with the ball and then showing real character with the bat. The star of the day though was undoubtedly Samaraweera, who took more than half an hour to score his first run of the day before racing from 100 to 150 in just 43 deliveries.
Morning rain meant a two-hour delay and a readjustment in the session timings, and after a sedate first hour before lunch, when only 35 runs were added and Mahela Jayawardene snaffled by Iain O'Brien, there was an injection of excitement after the interval. Angelo Mathews flicked the first ball after the interval for four and then paddle-swept four more, but when New Zealand reeled off three successive maidens, the momentum appeared to have been lost.
Samaraweera was marooned on 97 for a while, but the moment he struck a gorgeous straight drive off Jeetan Patel to get to three figures, the mood changed. In Patel's next over, he lofted over mid-on for four and six, and then cut four more as the scoreboard started to race along. Daniel Vettori was also taken over midwicket, and Patel repeatedly driven with deft footwork. Mathews joined in with a heaved six off the hapless Patel and though he departed soon after, edging a drive behind off Vettori, Samaraweera continued to race along.
Prasanna Jayawardene went caught short at short leg off Vettori, but either side of that, Samaraweera drove, cut and even steered to third man off pace and spin alike. Having taken 223 balls for his century, he was suddenly smacking the ball like a man having an extended net session. Soon after, he came down the track to Vettori and found Patel at long-off, departing after a 277-ball effort. Chris Martin and Vettori then wrapped up the tail in a jiffy, as the last four wickets added just eight.
Fortune appeared to be on Sri Lanka's side early on when a thick outside edge from Jayawardene off O'Brien flew between wicketkeeper and slip. New Zealand's frustration quickly turned to joy though, when another delivery in the corridor was almost guided off the edge to the right of Ross Taylor at first slip. The new ball was taken almost as soon as it was due, and a quiet phase followed, with Mathews finding his feet and Samaraweera taking no chances.
The ball was then changed after having lost its shape, but it made no difference, with Samaraweera lashing one behind point for four. A neat clip through midwicket off Jesse Ryder took him to 96, but a tidy over from Vettori ensured that he would have to contend with the nervous nibbles at lunch. It was a different story thereafter.
The ball changes were a bizarre feature of the final session too, with three used before New Zealand had played even 10 overs. The innings started promisingly enough, with Martin Guptill clipping and pulling leg-side fours off Nuwan Kulasekara. Ajantha Mendis was on as early as the ninth over but it was Thilan Thushara that gave Kumar Sangakkara the breakthrough. The ball had just been changed when Guptill played a superb on-drive, but his attempt to find the square-leg boundary with a pull only meant a ricochet on to the base of the stumps.
With Murali coming on soon after, runs were hard to come by, but as McIntosh swept and drove Mendis for fours, New Zealand seemed to be finishing the day the better. But Mendis came round the wicket to bowl Flynn off the inner edge and with more rain forecast for the remaining days, survival was New Zealand's first priority after an eventful day in the shadow of the 400-year-old fort.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at CricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
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