Angelo Mathews' 115 helps Sri Lanka set New Zealand a stiff target
Blair Tickner, Matt Henry and Tim Southee shared nine wickets for the hosts
New Zealand 373 and 28 for 1 (Latham 11*, Williamson 7*, Rajitha 1-5) need another 257 runs to beat Sri Lanka 355 and 302 (Mathews 115, Tickner 4-100, Henry 3-71)
Angelo Mathews' 14th Test century pried open the door to an unlikely World Test Championship final berth for Sri Lanka, one that had seemingly been firmly shut the previous day. The game though is nevertheless finely poised, with New Zealand needing a very gettable 257 runs on the final day, and Sri Lanka requiring nine wickets. However, the visitors' biggest obstacle might be the rain that is forecast for Monday morning.
But that both teams are still in with a shot of winning this Test is a credit to the fight shown by both sets of players. At the start of play, Sri Lanka were on the back foot, with Mathews being kept company by nightwatcher Prabath Jayasuriya, who fell within the first half hour of play, with Blair Tickner having got all four wickets to fall until then. New Zealand, meanwhile, had to cope with the news that Neil Wagner would not be able to take the field for the remainder of the first Test after he failed a late fitness test on the back injury he suffered on day three.
But otherwise, neither side gave an inch away, with Mathews sharing partnerships of 105 and 60 with Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva, respectively, in the process dragging Sri Lanka back into position of relative strength in the face of relentless probing from New Zealand's seamers.
Tim Southee and Matt Henry - the latter nursing an injury that required stitches on his bowling hand - peppered the corridor outside off, while Tickner and the tireless Daryll Mitchell, who was called in for an extended spell owing to the absence of Wagner, particularly tested Chandimal - and even Mathews - with a packed leg-side field and an avalanche of short deliveries from around the wicket.
Sri Lanka though continued to slog, and it would take until shortly after the tea interval for Mathews to finally fall. Another length ball outside off, shaping away, examining Mathews' patience, which for once would fail him, saw him nick one through to the wicketkeeper. His 115 came off 235 balls, but by the time he fell, Sri Lanka's lead had grown to 233.
And as it turned out, Mathews' wicket sparked a collapse for Sri Lanka, who lost 4 for 42 to fold for 302. However, de Silva remained unbeaten on 47, adding 22 for the eighth wicket with Kasun Rajitha, while accumulating crucial runs for his side, as Sri Lanka ensured New Zealand were left with a challenging chase nevertheless.
And when the hosts came out to bat, the Sri Lankan bowlers did their part, utilising the early swing as well as some variable bounce on offer to trouble both Tom Latham and Devon Conway. The latter even fell before the close of play, chipping a return catch to Rajitha after one reared up off a good length. Latham and Kane Williamson held fort till the close, content to see proceedings through to the end of play.