Latham, Watling, de Grandhomme power New Zealand's dominance
On yet another rain-affected day, New Zealand's batting held together to drive their advantage forward
New Zealand 382 for 5 (Watling 81*, de Grandhomme 83*) lead Sri Lanka 244 (de Silva 109, Southee 4-63) by 138 runs
Tom Latham was all purpose, BJ Watling was composed as ever, and Colin de Grandhomme played shots as if it was a carefree net, as New Zealand pulled away from Sri Lanka on the fourth day of the second Test.
A rain-affected match had, nevertheless, been well balanced after nearly a full day's play on Saturday, but on Sunday, there were only 48 overs possible. They were enough for New Zealand to clatter 186 runs though, for the loss of only Latham's wicket, and swell their first-innings total to 382 for 5, and a lead of 138.
However, with just a day left in the match, and the forecast not offering great hope of a full day's play still, the chances of New Zealand getting an outright win to draw the series appear slim. If this Test is drawn, it will also break a sequence of 25 consecutive Tests in Sri Lanka that ended with an outright winner. The last drawn Test in Sri Lanka was when they played South Africa in July 2014.
That New Zealand still have a shot at aiming for victory in a game that has had significant time cut due to rain on each day, is down to how well they batted on the day. Play only started well after the scheduled lunch break, with morning rains ensuring the first session was washed out.
In another setback for Sri Lanka, Dimuth Karunaratne did not take the field at all out due to a small tear in his quadriceps, picked up while fielding on Saturday. As a result, Karunaratne will also not be able to bat higher than No.7 in the second innings. Angelo Mathews led the team in the field.
Latham, batting on an overnight 111, was brisk at the start but mostly risk-free. There was some aggression against Lahiru Kumara in the 69th over which yielded 12 runs, but Latham also had a narrow break in that over. Having just picked off a boundary to fine leg, he slashed hard at the next ball which took the edge and flew over the slips for another boundary. Had Mathews, at second slip, reacted quicker though and risen up in time, the ball would have been at catchable height for him.
Overall though, Latham and Watling didn't play in slam-bang fashion, making it clear that New Zealand weren't looking for a 'hit out and declare quickly' approach. Rather, they seemed to calculate that putting on a big first-innings score and having a crack at Sri Lanka last on the final day was a more viable option.
That was to change with de Grandhomme's entry, his naturally attacking style also suited to the need for quicker runs too. De Grandhomme had walked in with Watling on 55, but at stumps he was batting on 83 off 75, having overtaken Watling who was on 81.
Latham and Watling had set the stage while marching forward inexorably until Dilruwan Perera bowled a quicker one that skid on and rapped Latham on the pads. Even a review couldn't save him, with three reds meaning the on-field decision was upheld and he had to be on his way, ending a stand of 143.
De Grandhomme started briskly enough, but picked up the pace significantly after the tea break. In the 99th over, he carted left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya for four, six and six off consecutive balls - the last shot taking him to a half-century off 45 balls. Watling meanwhile, held his end up solid as ever, and New Zealand looked set to breach the 400-mark but the gathering dusk and rain clouds meant another end to the day before the scheduled close.
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo