Unlike Sri Lanka's attack, New Zealand's has supported their spearhead effectively at the P Sara Oval. Their spearhead, Tim Southee, has claimed another heavy haul in Colombo, after his four wickets in the first innings in Galle, and he has attributed this to the others in the attack. Southee had removed Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara on the second evening, and he dismissed Angelo Mathews and Tharanga Paranavitana the next day, claiming figures of 4 for 51.
Southee said left-arm seamer Trent Boult had been especially helpful to his success in Sri Lanka. The bowlers not only complement each other by testing batsmen against different angles of attack, but also specialise in swinging the ball in opposite directions. Southee largely takes the ball away from the right-hand batsmen, while Boult moves it in.
"Trent Boult has got a massive role to play in the wickets I've taken," Southee said. "He's helping out by putting pressure at the other end and I am sure his turn to take wickets is just around the corner. It's tough conditions at the moment, but I'm going through a period where it's coming out nicely."
New Zealand were only able to remove three batsmen in almost 70 overs on the third day, and despite having worked their way to the start of Sri Lanka's tail, they were unable to dismiss the hosts for less than the follow-on mark. Thilan Samaraweera and Suraj Randiv resisted with an unbeaten stand of 97 towards the end of the day, but Southee's efforts leave his team still in the hunt for a win as, having lost six wickets, Sri Lanka still trail by 187 runs.
Southee said wickets in the first hour of the fourth day would be crucial to New Zealand's hopes of levelling the series, particularly as the pitch offers little for bowlers once the ball gets old. New Zealand will begin the day with a ball that is only 4.2 overs old.
"Massive hour tomorrow morning, if we can pick up a couple of wickets and run through them then who knows," Southee said. "It's definitely a new-ball wicket, and if you can grab a couple with the new ball, then it makes it easier to make inroads into the batting line-up. It's not as easy when the ball gets older, and that can affect the team."
Southee said New Zealand weren't displeased with their day's work, given the number of good batsmen in Sri Lanka's ranks. "It's a tough batting line-up and there are some world class players here who have scored a lot of runs. They keep coming one after another and it just shows their great batting depth is. It would have been nice to have a couple of more [wickets] today to really get into their tail. Hopefully in the second innings, the spinners come to play."