Any lead in excess of 200 could be a winning one for New Zealand on a wearing Galle pitch, Tom Latham has said. Sri Lanka wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella, meanwhile, feels any target below 225 could be chaseable.
New Zealand are currently 177 runs ahead, with three second-innings wickets remaining, with BJ Watling and William Somerville unbeaten overnight. The second new ball is due in four overs.
"I think anything above 200, we are not too far off from that," Latham said after stumps on day three. "The important thing for us is to come back tomorrow morning and put up those partnerships like we did today. Like Tim Southee (who put on 54 with Watling for the seventh wicket), Will Somerville can help us build a partnership with BJ, who has been outstatanding today. Hopefully we can stitch that total to make as many as possible. We know how tough it can be in the fourth innings to chase down a score.
"It's a surface where when you get in, you can score, but sometimes things happen quickly in this part of the world. This wicket is no different. Through the three innings we have seen wickets lost in a hurry. Hopefully we can put pressure on the Sri Lankans and the wicket keeps deteriorating and the spinners will come into play."
The highest successful fourth-innings chase in Galle is 99 for 3, but that record may be slightly misleading - there haven't been that many middling fourth-innings targets set at this venue, and teams have made nine 200-plus fourth-innings totals in draws and losses. What's more, although there is substantial turn on this particular pitch, it is not yet unplayable, Dickwella said, having made 61 in the first innings and kept wickets for most of day three.
"The wicket is turning but it is slow turn," he said. "Slower than what we usually get in Galle. Even if we get a target of 225 or so, I think we can chase it down. Batting fourth will be tough on this wicket, no doubt, but we have a decent batting line-up. Those chasing stats are what teams have done in past. We're a different team and this is a different opposition. We have to play according the situation. Our batters will do the job, I feel."
Key to New Zealand's good position in the match was the 63 not out from Watling, who arrived at the crease with the score effectively 63 for 4, before putting up good partnerships with Henry Nicholls and Southee and a burgeoning one with Somerville.
"It was a fantastic innings by Watling," Latham said. "He is a guy who stands up when we need him. The tough situations bring the best out of him and it's great to have him in our team."