/Lakmals heroics keep Sri Lanka afloat on topsy-turvy Day 2

Lakmals heroics keep Sri Lanka afloat on topsy-turvy Day 2


Lakmal remained unbeaten on 28 at stumps as New Zealand pushed hard to break his partnership with Niroshan Dickwella

Lakmal remained unbeaten on 28 at stumps as New Zealand pushed hard to break his partnership with Niroshan Dickwella © AFP

Ebbs and flows, twists and turns. The Galle Test between Sri Lanka and New Zealand has been a keenly-contested one with both teams wresting back the advantage time and again. At 143 for 2, just before the Tea break, Sri Lanka were clearly in the ascendancy. However, Ajaz Patel ran through the hosts’ batting order to pick up a five-for to engineer a collapse. Just that Suranga Lakmal and Niroshan Dickwella shared a timely undefeated stand of 66 to help the home side claw back into the game, as they finished the day at 227 for 7, still trailing by 22.

At 143 for 3, Sri Lanka began the final session aiming to chip away at the lead. However, their plans were dashed when Kusal Perera played a half-hearted pull and was caught at backward point off Trent Boult. Dhananjaya de Silva didn’t last long as he skipped down the track to smash one back at Ajaz. A soft dismissal at a crucial stage of the innings.

Sri Lanka then lost the experienced Mathews too, with Ajaz inducing him to edge one to Ross Taylor. William Somerville joined in the act by sending Akila Dananjaya back to the hut. However, Lakmal joined forces with Dickwella to frustrate the home side. There were plays and misses and a few edges falling in no man’s land but the duo added vital runs and steered the side to stumps.

Lakmal slogged a few including one off Somerville that rocketed to the long-on fence, while Dickwella cracked the cheeky upper cut while facing Boult. Lakmal also had a couple of escapes. Tom Latham fluffed a sharp chance at gully off Somerville and Lakmal got a caught-at-slip-decision reversed, with the ultra-edge clearly indicating the ball had deflected via the front pad.

The first two sessions of the day too had its share of action and drama. During the post-lunch session, Mendis took the responsibility of taking the attack to New Zealand’s spinners. The tourists, eventually, got a breakthrough with Ajaz trapping Dimuth Karunaratne in front with a quicker delivery that turned a wee bit. Mathews (41*), the experienced campaigner, then played with freedom and shared an alliance of 77 with Mendis. Unfortunately for the home team, Mendis perhaps lost his concentration and drove the very next delivery after reaching his fifty to the lone slip fielder, which also triggered the collapse.

Meanwhile, in the morning session, Lakmal shone brightly with the ball in hand by picking up a four-for to snuff out New Zealand for 249. At that juncture, many wouldn’t have envisaged that Lakmal was also going to be the unlikely saviour for the home side with the willow. The visitors began the day on 203 for 5, with Ross Taylor still undefeated on 86. However, New Zealand’s plans to push the score towards 300 was derailed when Taylor chased a short and wide delivery while facing his first ball of Day 2 and edged it to Dickwella.

Mitchell Santner, the other overnight batsman, didn’t last long either, adjudged lbw to a delivery that nipped back in appreciably from Lakmal. Tim Southee was the next one to join his teammates back in the hut; dismissed on the back of a run out. Lakmal provided the finishing touches by dislodging Boult and Ajaz.

The track continues to offer assistance for spinners and more so with the newer ball. So, if Sri Lanka eke out a lead, they would be quite pleased.

Brief scores: New Zealand 249 (Ross Taylor 86; Akila Dananjaya 5-80, Suranga Lakmal 4-29) lead Sri Lanka227/7 (Kusal Mendis 53, Angelo Mathews 50; Ajaz Patel 5-76) by 22 runs

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