Dominant New Zealand close on series sweep of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka´s best hopes of saving the Test could rest with the weather

March 19, 2023
Bracewell said he supported the decision by Black Caps captain Southee to enforce the follow-on — AFP

New Zealand maintained their dominance over Sri Lanka in the second Test on Sunday, enforcing a follow-on and setting up the likelihood of a series clean sweep with two days to play.

The tourists reached 113-2 in their second innings at stumps on day three but still trailed by 303 runs at Wellington´s Basin Reserve.

They need a massive turnaround to avoid defeat after being skittled out for 164 in their first innings in response to the Black Caps´ 580-4 declared.

Starting off with a deficit of 416 runs, they showed more fight in their second turn at bat.

Captain Dimuth Karunaratne posted his second half-century of the day before being dismissed by counterpart Tim Southee for 51, caught in the deep after fellow-opener Oshada Fernando had been removed cheaply.

Kusal Mendis was at the crease on 50 and Angelo Mathews unbeaten on one off 40 balls, with the pair seeing off the last 11.5 overs in stoic fashion.

Sri Lanka´s best hopes of saving the Test could rest with the weather.

Rain is forecast for the final day, meaning they could force a stalemate if they can successfully bat through Monday, when cold, blustery conditions are expected and may make life uncomfortable for New Zealand in the field.

The tourists´ slim hope of winning to square the two-match series was effectively ended by a slew of rash shots which derailed their first innings.

The tail succumbed rapidly during a chaotic second session, with the last six wickets tumbling for 50 runs in the space of 15.1 overs despite the wicket playing relatively true.

Only three batters reached double figures in the first innings, including Karunaratne, who was the ninth man out for 89.

The gritty opener had looked to be digging the visitors out of a deep hole when he and Dinesh Chandimal put on 80 for the fifth wicket after the loss of two wickets in the day´s opening half-hour reduced them to 34-4.

However, Chandimal was stumped for 34 off Michael Bracewell after charging down the track soon after tea, sparking the slump.

Offspinner Bracewell then removed Dhananjaya de Silva in his next over and later dismissed Karunaratne when he hit out, to finish with 3-50.

'Nice surprise'

Playing his eighth Test, Bracewell was surprised at the drift and turn he could generate on a third-day track, with New Zealand pitches renowned for offering little assistance for slower bowlers.

"To take three wickets in the first innings is a nice surprise and to have it happen on day three is pretty exciting for a spinner," he said.

"But we´ve still got a big job. The two guys at the crease are obviously very experienced and have scored a lot of Test runs."

Victory would complete a memorable week for allrounder Bracewell, who signed up to a maiden Indian Premier League contract with Royal Challengers Bangalore as a replacement for injured Englishman Will Jacks.

"It´s one of those things that´s a little bit strange happening in the middle of a game," he said.

"So I haven´t afforded myself too much time to get too excited because obviously there´s a big game in front of me but I´m excited for getting over there."

Bracewell said he supported the decision by Black Caps captain Southee to enforce the follow-on, with the home side´s bowling attack still fresh when Sri Lanka padded up for a second time.

New Zealand are chasing their third Test victory in a row, following their dramatic two-wicket defeat of Sri Lanka in the first Test at Christchurch, which was sealed on the final ball.