ESPNCricinfo: The closest New Zealand came to taking a huge first-innings lead – or, as it panned out, not conceding a huge one – in Wellington was in the first delivery of Trent Boult’s first over of the day, when the ball swung sharply past the outside edge as Kumar Sangakkara went for a drive.
Twice, in Christchurch, Sangakkara had fallen for single-digit scores edging similar deliveries from Boult. The cover drive maybe Sangakkara’s signature shot, but that early wake-up call was a sign he had to lock the shot in a safe, at least till Sri Lanka were out of danger.
By the time the shot started making regular appearances, Sangakkara had cruised past yet another century – his 38th in Tests and his third in New Zealand – and lifted Sri Lanka to a position of strength. The last time he played that cover drive in the innings, it took him to his 11th double-century, one short of Don Bradman’s record 12, and the 143-run deficit at the start of the day had been transformed to a game-changing 135-run lead.
It was an innings of two halves. Gritty first, one in which Sangakkara was prepared to give the bowlers, and the conditions, due respect and bide his time, like the young Vito Corleone. Then, the matinee-show entertainment, as the second new-ball was taken apart by an authoritative, Brando’s Vito-like ruthlessness.
While the first 100 had taken 191 deliveries with seven fours, the second came off only 110 balls, with 11 fours and three sixes, lifting Sangakkara’s Test average briefly over 59, before dropping to 58.92 on his departure.
Sangakkara had needed support in the first half, and that came through his fighting 130-run stand for the sixth wicket with Dinesh Chandimal. The partnership was critical. Sangakkara and Chandimal knew they had to survive an opening burst from Tim Southee and Boult to get any closer to New Zealand’s total. Sangakkara appeared in discomfort against Boult’s swing, playing out 29 balls to score eight runs in the bowler’s testing opening spell of six overs.
During that period, he curbed his scoring instinct and focused on defending from the back foot. It was the kind of restraint and discipline Sri Lanka needed too. It also meant that Chandimal only faced seven deliveries from Boult, who had looked the most threatening of the pace trio. Only 20 runs came in the first eight overs of the morning. Chandimal showed more intent, both in his shot-making and his running between the wickets, to ensure Sri Lanka kept trudging ahead while Sangakkara held one end. He clipped Southee a couple of times to the square-leg boundary early in his innings. A nudge in the same area against Southee brought the 50 of the partnership in the 44th over.
Chandimal had his fair share of plays and misses to deliveries wide outside off, but with time, his defence grew tighter. He reached his sixth half-century soon after lunch, and went on to complete 1000 runs in Tests with a paddle sweep for four.
For New Zealand, the first objective for the second day was straightforward - break the stand between Sangakkara and Chandimal, and expose the tail to the seamers - but, as they found out, not simple. Sangakkara’s pedigree aside, even Chandimal has in the past shown a stomach for fight in overseas Tests.
Still, New Zealand’s seamers and even the spinner generated enough from the pitch to keep the batsmen alert, but by the time James Neesham broke the stand - in the 70th over - Sri Lanka were only 13 behind.
If New Zealand thought they could quickly clean up the tail, they were in for a rude shock. Sangakkara had just moved to 93 with his signature shot. The previous two times he had crossed 50 in New Zealand, he had gone on to score unbeaten centuries. He ensured he was not going to miss out on this start. Enter phase two.
Kumar Sangakkara -Dinesh Chandimal stand kept the New Zealand bowlers at bay, New Zealand v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Wellington, 2nd day, January 4, 2015 ©Getty Images
NZ face tough task but wicket getting easier: Watling
WELLINGTON (Reuters): New Zealand will have a fight to ensure they get back into the second test against Sri Lanka on Monday but the wicket was aiding a recovery, according to wicket-keeper BJ Watling.
The hosts, who have a 1-0 lead in the two-match series, ended the second day at the Basin Reserve with a 113-run deficit after Kumar Sangakkara had changed the game with a super 203 in his side’s 356 to give them a 135-run lead.
New Zealand’s openers Tom Latham (nine) and Hamish Rutherford (12), then saw their side through to 22 without loss at the close and will need to take a leaf out of Sangakkara’s book to further reduce that deficit.
“Not an ideal position now so we have a bit of work to do and show a bit of fight in day three,” Watling told reporters. “It’s a big first session, hopefully the openers can get through and start to eke away at that lead. But it is getting a bit easier to bat and hopefully days three and four are good batting days and we can cash in.”
Watling’s team mates need only look at how Sangakkara and Dinesh Chandimal, who strode to the wicket on Sunday with their side on 78 for five and after some tentative and nervous moments, negated any advantage New Zealand had in the game.
Sangakkara then took over, working the ball all around the sun-drenched Basin Reserve, punching it into gaps or dispatching short balls aerially behind square on both sides of the wicket.
He also frustrated the New Zealand bowlers by dominating the strike with the tail, contributing 110 of 148 runs in three partnerships with his own bowlers as the visitors built their lead before a sensational one-handed diving catch by Trent Boult at point ended his innings on 203.
“He played a hell of a knock,” Watling said. “We weren’t quite as disciplined as we would have liked to be and obviously Kumar took advantage of that and we saw how good he is. He gapped the ball well, waited for the loose balls and obviously with the tail he faced most of the balls so we couldn’t bowl enough at the tail enders. It was a demonstration of how to play from a world class player.”