Dead heat after hard-fought day
New Zealand 221 and 35 for 1 lead Sri Lanka 247 (Mahela 91, Mathews 79, Southee 4-46) by 9 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The Galle Test is shaping up to be a game of small margins. The seesaw battle on the second day reinforced as much, and ensured the series lead would be decided by what is effectively a one-innings shootout.
During the first hour, New Zealand made inroads so deep into Sri Lanka's line-up that they were well placed to press for a sizeable first-innings advantage. Over the next three, though, Sri Lanka's captain and his deputy restored parity and then gained the ascendency. The good times did not last as long as the hosts would have liked, and the upshot of New Zealand's resurgence post tea was a mere 26-run lead for the hosts. The visitors, however, could not erase the deficit without suffering damage.
In response to New Zealand's first-innings total of 221, Sri Lanka resumed on 9 for 1 on the second day, and their batsmen were subjected to a severe examination. Tim Southee and Trent Boult used the conditions, and a ball that was only five overs old, expertly, and made the batsmen play by moving the ball off straight lines and difficult lengths.
Southee struck in the first over, slanting a full delivery across the left-hand opener Tharanga Paranavitana, who drove at one he could have left. The ball bent back into him and hit the stumps off the inside edge. In his second over, Southee sent down a volley of outswingers and drew edges from night-watchman Suraj Randiv off successive deliveries. Brendon McCullum dropped the first at third slip, but Martin Guptill held the next at second.
At the other end, Boult beat Kumar Sangakkara by pitching around off stump from over the wicket, drawing the left-hand batsman forward, and seaming the ball away. He did this repeatedly, and eventually hit Sangakkara's edge. This time McCullum caught it in the cordon. Three wickets had fallen in four overs and Sri Lanka were 20 for 4.
Southee continued to test the right-handers. Another outswinger had Thilan Samaraweera cutting and edging past Ross Taylor at first slip, but it was the inswinger that dismissed him, after he offered no shot and was hit on the pad. Sri Lanka had lost four wickets in the first hour, and Angelo Mathews joined Mahela Jayawardene. The tide was about to turn.
The pressure was beginning to ease: the ball was older, and Southee and Boult were being eased out of the attack after their opening spells. New Zealand's support cast wasn't as threatening.
Doug Bracewell, the first-change seamer, immediately offered Jayawardene a short and wide ball that was cut for four, and after he changed ends, Mathews drove straight and through cover as well. Bracewell's day did not get better and he went for 67 in 16 wicketless overs. Jeetan Patel was brought on just before the lunch break and Jayawardene attacked him, skipping out of his crease and lofting over the midwicket boundary. Sri Lanka ended the first session on 105 for 5.
The second session was emphatically theirs - 85 runs and no wicket. There was almost no seam or swing movement in the afternoon and the batsmen progressed to their half-centuries. Jayawardene reached his off 76 balls, while Mathews slogged Patel for six and flicked Bracewell for four to get there off 70 deliveries. The 100-run stand came at more than four runs per over. So at ease was Mathews that he felt confident enough to reverse-swat Patel to the point boundary and eventually outscored his captain. At tea, the partnership was worth 140 and Sri Lanka were trailing by only 31.
Sri Lanka had moved within 15 runs of drawing level with New Zealand when James Franklin broke through, drawing an edge from Mathews to earn his first Test wicket since 2009. The hosts also lost Prasanna Jayawardene before the lead was taken and Mahela eventually took his team ahead via a reverse-swept boundary off Patel.
Patel, however, denied Mahela a hundred, when an attempted sweep resulted in the ball bobbing up off the glove and wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk diving forward to take a sharp catch. Mahela walked before the umpire had revealed his decision. Sri Lanka were eventually dismissed for 247 and New Zealand were left with 12 overs to face in the fading light, 26 runs in arrears.
McCullum did not survive; he heaved at a turning short ball from Rangana Herath and was caught on the move by Nuwan Kulasekara at deep midwicket. It was a loss New Zealand could have avoided. Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill wiped out the remainder of the deficit and took their team nine runs ahead before stumps.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo