Openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne laid a solid platform for Sri Lanka at Galle, ending the fourth day of the first Test 135 runs adrift from their target of 268.
Karunaratne and Thirimanne combined together for an unseparated stand of 133, thwarting all attempts by the Kiwi bowlers to claw their way back into the game.
Although the deteriorating Galle surface offered turn to the New Zealand spinners, they were unable to prise out a wicket for 50 overs. Mixing caution with a free-flowing approach, the openers kept collecting runs without any major trouble.
If they manage to lap up the remaining runs, it will be the first successful 100+ chase on this ground, the previous best being 99, by Sri Lanka, against Pakistan in 2014.
Lunch at Galle 🥗— ICC (@ICC) August 17, 2019
New Zealand have fought back brilliantly to garner a decent lead. Sri Lanka have five sessions to get 268 to win. Can they?#SLvNZ LIVE 👇 https://t.co/tk1bG2fLyn pic.twitter.com/ecQCidRcPj
Earlier, a lower-order resistance kept the Sri Lankan bowling at bay, extending New Zealand’s lead to 267.
After rain forced the fourth day into a delayed start, New Zealand’s duo of BJ Watling and William Somerville continued from their overnight score of 195-7, having garnered a lead of 177 runs.
Watling could only add 14 runs to his overnight tally of 63, becoming Lahiru Kumara’s first wicket of the game, and the first wicket to fall to a pacer in the innings. It still finished as the highest score by a Kiwi wicketkeeper in a Test in Sri Lanka.
Somerville, at No.8, then put up a dogged resistance, garnering his highest first-class score of 40* to add crucial runs to New Zealand’s third innings score. He was well supported by the rest of the tail, with the enterprising Trent Boult chipping in with 26, and No.11 Ajaz Patel getting his best score of 14. Their 25-run last wicket stand pushed the lead past 250.
In reply, Karunaratne and Thirimanne walked out with a substantial target facing them, but looked unruffled as they went about their business.
The skipper leading by example for Sri Lanka!— ICC (@ICC) August 17, 2019
He has passed fifty and Sri Lanka are 90/0 chasing 268 to win the first Test against New Zealand.
Follow #SLvNZ 👇 https://t.co/tk1bG2fLyn pic.twitter.com/vcFQFJWqNk
Karunaratne was offered two lives within the space of two overs - while Tom Latham couldn’t latch onto a catch at forward short leg, BJ Watling bungled a stumping to add to New Zealand’s woes. Somerville, acting on the assistance from the surface, had his moments with a few close calls, but still could not separate the duo. Thirimanne, in particular, swept repeatedly to spinners, negating the turn from the day four surface.
It was the first time in 20 innings, that Sri Lanka’s openers had stitched together a century stand for the first wicket. By 125, they had crossed the best opening stand by Sri Lanka in the fourth innings, bettering Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva’s tally from 2014.
Much like the third day, play had to be suspended much ahead of the stipulated close, with 13 overs still left before the scheduled stumps.
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