I kept my belief - Patel
Jeetan Patel, the New Zealand offspinner, put his first-innings haul of 4 for 78 down to perseverance and his belief in his ability to bowl in the right areas. Sri Lanka appeared to be cruising at 367 for 4 after centurion Thilan Samaraweera and Chamara Kapugedera had added 72 for the fifth wicket. Patel broke that stand, dismissing Kapugedera for 35, and the hosts slipped, losing six wickets for 59 to be bowled out for 416.
"They played good shots but I had to stay confident with what I had to do and it meant I picked up a few cheap wickets, but it was good to get the task done," Patel, who finished with his second-best figures in Tests, said. "It was a bad morning session and a good afternoon session. It just shows that if we stick to our task we can do well. Their tail is not long but they gave us opportunities and I think we took them really well."
Being the second spinner in the team, and still quite inexperienced, Patel said he knew the Sri Lankan batsmen would target him and be cautious against Daniel Vettori. He was struck for two consecutive boundaries by Samaraweera in his 12th over and received the same treatment in his next, as both batsmen scored a boundary each. However, he struck soon after, deceiving Kapugedera in flight as the batsman miscued him to mid-off to kick off the slide.
"It looked like they took that into account, that they'd play defensively against Dan and attack me," Patel said. "There are times when you second-guess yourself but the biggest thing for me today was to come away keeping my belief. They could have slipped away to a bigger score but the guys were really impressive in sticking to their task. After being 260 for 3 it was a great effort."
Patel acknowledged it was difficult bowling in subcontinental conditions, especially when confronted with a strong batting line-up as Sri Lanka's. "It is always hard when you come to the subcontinent," he said. "Being a spinner, on these wickets, you're expected to bowl plenty of overs and take wickets. But the Sri Lankans, being such good cricketers, makes it hard. You have to stick to your guns and remain confident."
The experience of bowling with Vettori, Patel said, was among the exciting features of playing for his country and he added his role was essentially one of supporting his captain. "It's good fun. It gives me great confidence to have the best left-arm spinner in the world bowling at the other end but it also makes me understand that I cannot be attacking the whole time," he said. "I have to bowl tight. It is his opportunity to take wickets and mine to be defensive at times."
Patel also attributed his success to the guidance of his coach, a former offspinner, John Bracewell. "With Bracers it was great," he said. "To have another offspinner as head coach was good. He was such a hard character that the confidence I'm starting to believe in now was rubbed off from him."
Despite the fightback, New Zealand were left struggling at stumps on the second day, losing five wickets with 159 on the board. Patel, sent as nightwatchman, only lasted six deliveries. Ross Taylor, unbeaten on 70, and Jesse Ryder had steadied the innings with an 85-run fourth-wicket stand, but the visitors lost two quick wickets towards the end of the day to undo the recovery.
"It was disappointing to lose wickets like that, especially myself being a nightwatchman I should have seen through the session," Patel said. "We've still got Brendon [McCullum] and Rosco [Ross Taylor] who is going really strong at the moment, so we have some batsmen up the sleeve to get to 250 at least. We're looking to bat as long as we can and from there set up the game."
The pitch, Patel said, was still favourable for batting. "It may be a little low but other than that it's good. You saw when Sri Lanka opened the bowling they banged it in and it still had got bounce."