After dominating much of the opening day of the Boxing Day Test with the ball, Sri Lanka’s first innings batting effort was left in tatters very early on day two from a great spell of left-arm fast bowling from Trent Boult who, in a span of 15 balls, took six wickets for four runs to send Sri Lanka from 94/4 to 104 all out.
New Zealand in response made it through a tough first session unscathed and then cashed in, reaching 231/2 and a commanding 305-run lead at the end of the second day.
Boult’s new-ball partner Tim Southee snared two terrific slip catches off his fellow paceman, but all four of Boult’s remaining wickets fell LBW. Exploiting the early overcast conditions, Boult was swinging every ball like a banana and the Sri Lankan lower-order was powerless to stop the ball cannoning into their pads. He finished with figures of 6-30 in 15 overs.
It was Roshen Silva (21) who started the rot, when he fell driving Boult on the up and was sharply caught by Southee in the slips, before Niroshan Dickwella (4) fell in a similar manner, playing an irresponsible cover drive off just his third ball.
From there it was all downhill, with Dilruwan Perera and Suranga Lakmal both falling to Boult off successive deliveries. Paceman Lahiru Kumara survived the hat-trick ball but fell off the very next ball.
Angelo Mathews, having hit a solitary four off Southee’s previous over amongst the chaos at the other end, was left stranded on 33 from 88 balls.
“The plans were simple this morning,” Boult said after his heroics with the ball. “It was about building pressure on the guys and it was nice to exploit a bit of their weaknesses with some swing bowling. I was just trying to pitch the ball up really.”
Sri Lanka’s bowlers, who had been on the field for much of the opening day and were back on the field sooner than they surely may have liked, had to strike early in the New Zealand innings if they hoped to create a slim chance of staying in the game.
They were unable to and didn’t make use of the new ball movement. New Zealand’s openers, Jeet Raval and Tom Latham, were relatively cautious but successfully negotiated the first session, going into the lunch break at 36/0.
After lunch, New Zealand were untroubled. The opening pair revelled in the best batting conditions so far in the Test.
Raval was the first to reach his half-century and only fell to a catch by Kusal Mendis at short-leg. Raval once again failed to go on with a start, being dismissed for 74, but had done enough to cement New Zealand’s position of dominance.
As is usually the case, the run-rate received a boost when New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson came to the crease. Williamson looked at ease and was vicious when driving and cutting off the back foot. He added 68 for the second wicket with Latham, before Mendis took another sharp catch to dismiss him for 48.
Latham was unbeaten on 74 but the hosts were perhaps lucky to survive a repeat of Ross Taylor’s dismissal in the first innings, with Kumara appearing to get a finger on the ball but Latham’s straight drive narrowly missed the stumps. The experienced Taylor, who hit weary Lakmal for four consecutive boundaries in the 76th over, was not out on 25 off 27 at stumps.
It remains to be seen if or when Williamson will declare New Zealand’s innings closed but, in the meantime, at least one day of toil in the field awaits the beleaguered Sri Lankan tourists tomorrow.
© Island Cricket