2nd Test, Christchurch, December 26 - 30, 2018, Sri Lanka tour of New Zealand
178 & 585/4d
(T:660) 104 & 236

New Zealand won by 423 runs

Player Of The Match
68, 3/35 & 2/61

Wagner burst leaves Sri Lanka on the brink

He dismissed half-centurions Mendis and Chandimal in a hostile spell to crack open the game after a third-wicket century stand

Neil Wagner broke Sri Lanka's back with timely strikes, New Zealand v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Christchurch, 4th day, December 29, 2018

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Sri Lanka 104 and 231 for 6 (Dilruwan 22*, Lakmal 16*, Wagner 3-47, Southee 2-61) need 429 more to beat New Zealand 178 and 585 for 4 dec (Latham 176, Nicholls 162*, de Grandhome 71)
Sri Lanka fought hard on day four, seeing out the early swing and seam of Trent Boult and Tim Southee, riding what seemed like a billion Neil Wagner bouncers, defusing the gentle spin of Ajaz Patel, but for all their grit, they are still facing a gigantic defeat. The lost four wickets, which was at least two too many to give them half a chance of avoiding a series loss.
Just as importantly, they also lost Angelo Mathews - their form batsman - to a suspected torn hamstring, which means that although Sri Lanka are technically only six down, New Zealand are now properly into their tail. Whether Mathews bats or not on day five, he is likely to be substantially hampered by the injury, his footwork and his running between the wickets severely affected.
Unsurprisingly, it was Wagner who did much of the legwork for New Zealand, after Boult and Southee had gone wicketless in their opening spells. Wagner broke Sri Lanka's best partnership of the innings - the 117-run, 318-ball third wicket stand between Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal - having Mendis caught brilliantly at short cover by substitute fielder Matt Henry.
In the evening session, he struck twice. The first felled Chandimal, who had been ducking and jiving out of the way of Wagner's bouncers all day, but finally found himself in an awkward position against another throat-high ball. He could do nothing more than fend at it with his gloves, the ball popping up for a simple short leg catch. Roshen Silva, who had frustrated New Zealand for 72 balls, was Wagner's next victim, an angled length delivery shaving the outside edge on its way to wicketkeeper BJ Watling.
The only other wicket of the day fell to Southee, when halfway through the third session, wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella became the only batsman on the day to be dismissed without facing at least 50 deliveries. Eyeing a wide length ball, he threw his hands, and ended up chopping the ball back on to his stumps for 19 off 31.
At stumps, Sri Lanka's batsmen were the dogged Dilruwan Perera, batting on 22 off 60 balls, and Suranga Lakmal, on 16 off 22. Given Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara do not seem to possess a defensive technique of note, New Zealand could potentially wipe out the remainder of the Sri Lanka innings within a matter of a few balls on day five.
While Mendis and Chandimal were together, though, Sri Lanka entertained thoughts of another great escape. The pair had largely been careful to avoid pushing at balls that were not threatening the stumps, even if on occasion a loose drive produced a play-and-miss. Southee and Boult swung it appreciably - but not prodigiously - in the morning, but failed to create any clear-cut chances. After the first hour, sun fell on the track, and the ball grew softer, and run-scoring became easier.
Mendis, in particular, grew in confidence as lunch approached, hitting five boundaries in the final half-hour of the session. One of those boundaries took him beyond 1000 Test runs in the calendar year, making him only the second batsman after Virat Kohli to achieve the feat. That he has got to the milestone at 23, when Kohli had himself been five years older before making his first 1000-run year was particularly remarkable. He got to his half century shortly before the end of the first session ended, and Chandimal got to the milestone soon after play resumed.
Chandimal was more reticent than Mendis for much of the partnership, contributing only 45 off 171 to the stand, but given his propensity to instinctively play the hook, he was also perhaps exercising the greater self-denial. Chandimal's negotiating of the short ball was more-or-less been perfect before tea.
He ducked extremely well, and on the occasions when he has felt he must play the ball, he had middled it and struck it into the ground. Wagner, though, eventually bowled the ball that shook Chandimal out of his zen. With Mathews having hobbled off the field at tea, and having failed to take the field after that break, Chandimal's wicket meant that Sri Lanka had no more senior batsmen remaining.
Silva's resistance was admirable, but it was also somewhat lucky - he played and missed at length balls angled across him often, and his defence was not quite as tight as those of Mendis, Chandimal and Mathews had been. He did, however, play the short balls reasonably well, never really being tempted into a hook or a pull.
Perera was also excellent in the period leading up to stumps, even copping a nasty blow on the gloves from Wagner in the last 20 minutes. Lakmal was solid enough for a No. 9 as well.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf

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