On the opening day of New Zealand's Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka, Tim Southee was vital for the home side with both bat and ball, and went on to achieve a new milestone. Yet, he had little time for celebration.
"That first hour [on Thursday] is crucial," Southee said, after the day's play on Wednesday, 26 December."There was a little bit of swing tonight, hopefully it'll be there tomorrow morning."
At stumps on day one, the second Test in Christchurch was intriguingly poised with the visitors 88/4 in response to New Zealand's 178 all out. The big obstacle for the hosts, though, is Angelo Mathews, the middle-order batsman, whose epic knock in the first Test denied Kane Williamson's men a win, and who is batting on 27.
All-round Tim Southee reduces Sri Lanka to 88/4 after his brisk half-century lifts New Zealand to 178 on the opening day of the second #NZvSL Test.— ICC (@ICC) December 26, 2018
REPORT 👇https://t.co/xCYrnmPsbD pic.twitter.com/oSnGleJhfv
"[Mathews] is a class player," pointed out Southee, who finished with three wickets for the day. "He's played a lot of Test cricket and he's been out to New Zealand a number of times and is reasonably familiar with these conditions. He had a great start in Wellington [in the first Test], so he's flying high on confidence. He's a big wicket.
"[But] I don't think we can put all our energy on him, there's still some quality guys to come as well."
That New Zealand had anything to defend was thanks to their No.8, who struck three sixes in a 65-ball 68, teaming up with BJ Watling for an 108-run stand. Southee, who dominated that partnership, had praise for the wicket-keeper batsman, who contributed 46 to the cause.
Southee on Watling: "He scores a lot of runs – it's usually the tough runs, he finds a way to dig in"
"He scores a lot of runs – it's usually the tough runs, he finds a way to dig in," he pointed out. "That shows you his character, the hard work he puts in, and he's invaluable as a team member in this side – he scraps through, especially in times when you need him. His innings today was very important in us getting to that total."
After Suranga Lakmal ran through the top order, Southee and Watling counter-attacked. Explaining the tactic, the pace bowler said, "We were just trying to get some sort of score, just work together. I guess they changed their tactics from what had worked for them for the first six wickets and the change in plan worked in our favour. Just trying to cash in on that. We saw that the full ones were harder to hit than the shorter ones."
Praising the visitors' bowling, he added, "We knew it was going to be tough ... Other teams that have come to this part of the world, we've lost the toss and still been able to put up a reasonable score, so a lot of credit needs to go especially to the way Lakmal bowled."
It was a special day for Southee, who with 235 wickets now went ahead of Chris Martin to be third on the list of highest wicket-takers for his country, ahead of Richard Hadlee (431) and Daniel Vettori (361).
"To overtake someone like Chris, I played a lot with him towards the back end of his career and he was a great team man and exceptional team bowler," said the man of the moment. "To go past one of our greatest Test bowlers is a nice achievement along the way."