COLOMBO – New Zealand are closing in on a first Test match victory in Sri Lanka since 1998 after taking four late wickets on day four of the second and final Test today.
After losing the first match of the two-Test series by 10 wickets in Galle last week, pace bowlers Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell made New Zealand firm favourites to square the series after combining to leave Sri Lanka reeling on 47 for 4 in pursuit of a world record 363-run target.
The daunting target was set thanks to another vital contribution from New Zealand captain Ross Taylor who made 74 as his side posted 194 for 9 declared in their second innings.With time already lost in the match due to a mixture of bad light and rain, the Black Caps were keen to give themselves as much time as possible to bowl Sri Lanka out for a second time.
And they made the perfect start, with Southee (2-19) trapping Sri Lanka opener Tharanga Paranavitana lbw with the very first ball of the run-chase.
Southee then made Tillakaratne Dilshan (14) his seventh victim of the match when he edged through to wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk, leaving the home side tottering on 35-2 with light beginning to fade.
All hopes of a Sri Lanka revival once again rested on stalwarts Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, however both fell to Bracewell (2-5) before a premature close of play was called to leave the Black Caps firmly in command.
Sangakkara made just 16 before he was bowled off his thigh pad in rather unfortunate circumstances, while Jayawardene had stuttered to just five before edging Bracewell behind the wicket 10 deliveries before stumps. New Zealand had opened up a 168-run first-innings earlier in the day after taking the remaining four Sri Lanka wickets for just 19 runs.
Left-arm paceman Trent Boult removed Thilan Samaraweera (76), Suraj Randiv (39) and Rangana Herath (5) to finish with Test-best figures of 4-42, while Southee removed Nuwan Kulasekara (6) to claim his third five-wicket haul.
The Black Caps threatened to undo their fine morning’s work when slumping to 75-5 in their second innings, however Taylor and debutant Todd Astle (35) shared a 97-run partnership for the sixth wicket to put the tourists back in control.†††