Although you would never have guessed it from their lack of ambition on the fourth day, both Sri Lanka and New Zealand claim to be hopeful of clinching the series on the final day of this Kandy Test match. The match drifted along aimlessly in the first two sessions today, as Hashan Tillakaratne compiled a painstaking 93, an innings that spanned 232 balls and five-and-a-half hours, before Sri Lanka's first innings finally closed at 298. New Zealand batted more positively in the final session with Mark Richardson scoring 51 not out, his second half-century of the match, to finish the day with 92 for 1, which means that they have a lead of 99 going into the final day.
New Zealand have a slight edge, but Tillakaratne claims that Sri Lanka are willing to chase down a target of around 250 if they can bowl NZ out tomorrow. "There are 105 overs to bowl tomorrow, and if we can bowl well we can put ourselves in a winning position," he said. "The pitch is turning a lot and I am sure that Murali can do wonders tomorrow."
Tillakaratne defended Sri Lanka's slow scoring during the first two sessions, arguing that it was essential for them to get as close as possible to New Zealand's first-innings total. "We didn't to take risks because the ball is always going to turn on the final day," he said. "We went slowly because we wanted to get a lead of 25 to 50 runs. We didn't do that, which was disappointing, but at least we got close to their total."
Paul Wiseman, New Zealand's only spinner in the absence of the injured Daniel Vettori (who is also not expected to take the field in the Sri Lankan second innings), believes New Zealand can put pressure on the home team on the final day. "We are actually in a reasonable position now with a 100-odd lead with a day to go - anything could happen," he said. "We have still got a lot of batting to do to put pressure on them and will bat for the next session and evaluate where we go from there."
Wiseman was the most effective of New Zealand's bowlers, taking 4 for 104 from 32.3 overs, and he fared well with the additional responsibility placed upon him after Vettori injured his left ankle in a fielding collision with Marvan Atapattu. "It was always going to be a bit tough without Daniel, but I just looked at it as a challenge and an opportunity for me to get a lot of bowling against a very good side," he said. "I got through 30-odd overs and that was very pleasing. I thought they made a bit of a conscious effort to put pressure on me last night being the only spinner on a turning pitch - something that you have to do - but I had a good think about that overnight and it went pretty well today."
Sri Lanka's former captain Sanath Jayasuriya was disappointed to have missed out on his 11th Test century after being caught at slip for 82. "I did a lot of hard work in the middle and it was not good for the team," he said. "I should have gone on and got a big hundred. I always play my natural positive game and it would have been easier to pass the New Zealand total if I had stayed there."