Sri Lanka is in a dominant position after three days at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. The Kiwis have been set an improbable 504 for victory, and with both openers back in the pavilion, the chances of a NZ win or for that matter a draw look as dim as the weather currently is in Wellington. The left arm spinner Daniel Vettori was the sole shining light for the home side after picking up a seven-wicket bag, but the day belonged to two-tests-old Chamara Silva who scored a glorious 152*.
Sri Lanka, after resuming the day at 225/5 made a solid start with both Prasanna Jayawardene and Chamara Silva treating the Kiwi bowlers with disdain. Chamara Silva in particular was ruthless in front of the wicket as he quickly brought up his first test ton. In a magnificent innings that belied his lack of experience, he became the first test cricketer in history to score a pair of ducks in his first test only to follow it up with a century in his second!
Chamara’s overnight partner, Prasanna Jayawardene mistimed a short delivery and was caught at square leg for a well made 37 and Chaminda Vaas who has been long overdue with the bat, came in aggressively and smashed the bowlers, Shane Bond in particular whilst compiling a breezy 47. Silva continued on his merry way at the other end, and by the time the Sri Lankan tailenders had somewhat thrown their wickets away to Daniel Vettori, Silva was left unbeaten on 152. He faced only 219 deliveries in the knock which included 20 boundaries, most of them genuine cricket shots which gives the impression Sri Lanka may have uncovered quite a gem here. A sub continental version of Mike Hussey possibly – you never know!
Vettori was the best of the Kiwi bowlers, but would consider himself lucky to pick up a 7 wicket bag, and a ten wicket haul for the match. He ended up figures of 7/130 off 43 overs and will feel content that he has finally shown his worth to the Kiwi public at home.
Sri Lanka ended up all out for 365, setting NZ a mammoth 504 for victory which seems a nomial figure at this point. After an interruption for bad light, both NZ openers were removed in the last hour. Jamie How was shocked by what looked like a beamer from Lasith Malinga which was only a full toss to be plumb in front of the stumps. How was taking evasive action for that, otherwise he had batted confidently for his 33, and Craig Cumming also made a start before succumbing to the guile of a Muralitharan doosra for 20. The Kiwis battled their way to 75/2 when play eventually was curtailed when Stephen Fleming (4) and Mathew Sinclair (10) were offered the light.
With fine weather forecast for the remaining two days of this encounter, the Sri Lankans will definitely like their chances of wrapping this test up and coming up with a satisfying drawn series. New Zealand on the other hand will be looking to accomplish the impossible – a world record fourth innings chase, but with a relatively placid pitch on offer, the morales within the Kiwi camp could be boosted. Muralitharan the champion off-spinner looks to be the key again, and one would suspect that he will be licking his chops to have a big day tomorrow. The Kiwis would be looking up to their tall skipper Stephen Fleming who is perfectly capable of scoring tall scores which would be the order of the day or should I say for the two remaining days?