Dimuth Karunaratne and Angelo Mathews rescued Sri Lanka's innings in the first Test against New Zealand
Battling half-centuries to Dimuth Karunaratne and Angelo Mathews rescued Sri Lanka’s innings following a dismal start in the first Test against New Zealand on Saturday.
The veteran batsmen came together with Sri Lanka reeling on nine for three after a devastating opening spell from Black Caps’ paceman Tim Southee at Wellington’s Basin Reserve.
With the tourists teetering on the brink of disaster on the opening day of the two-Test series, they forged a 131-run partnership to frustrate the New Zealand attack.
Karunaratne patiently brought up his 21st Test half century off 101 balls before finally falling on 79, while Mathews was not out on 71 at tea with Sri Lanka at four for 167.
Their stand came after Southee claimed three wickets in his first two overs, reaping immediate rewards from New Zealand’s decision to bowl on a green Basin Reserve wicket after winning the toss. Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal said before the match that he wanted his top order to survive the first hour and see off the new ball but the wickets began to tumble in just the second over.
Danushka Gunathilaka was Southee’s first victim, out lbw for one after failing to deal with a late inswinger. Dhananjaya de Silva then edged through to the keeper for the same score and a clearly rattled Kusal Mendis only managed to reach two before hitting a simple catch to Ajaz Patel at mid-wicket.
Karunaratne was given a life on 33 when Neil Wagner had him caught at mid-wicket, only to have the delivery ruled a no-ball due to a foot fault.
He was also fortunate not to be caught in the slips after nicking a swinging Southee delivery just before bringing up his 50.
Wagner finally got his man after lunch when Karunaratne miscued a pull shot and gloved a short ball to keeper BJ Watling.
But by then the early pace and movement generated by the pitch had settled, offering few chances for the New Zealand bowlers in the second session.
Chandimal was understandably cautious when he came to the crease, taking 32 balls to reach six runs at the tea break. Sri Lanka, ranked sixth in the world, have lost their last five Tests against New Zealand and suffered a 3-0 Test series whitewash against England last month.
They have faced upheaval in their coaching and selection ranks in recent weeks and arrived in New Zealand low on confidence. In contrast, the fourth-ranked Black Caps enter the two-match contest buoyed by their first away Test series win over Pakistan in 49 years last week.