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    Galle Test nicely poised as New Zealand fight back

    August 17, 2019

    GALLE, Friday - The first cricket Test between Sri Lanka and New Zealand was heading for a classic finish at the Galle International Stadium yesterday after the Black Caps fought back from losing half the side for 98 in their second innings to end the third day on 195 for seven wickets and lead overall by 177 with three wickets in hand.Leading the New Zealand fight back was wicket-keeper/batsman Bradley-John Watling who is unbeaten on a defiant 63 scored off 138 balls with five fours. Watling who has a Test highest of 142 not out against Sri Lanka at Wellington in 2015 built vital partnerships of 26 with Mitchell Santner (12) and 54 with Tim Southee (23) to stall the Lankan spinners from running through the batting.

    As long as he was there New Zealand knew they could get to a target which will enable their bowlers also with a chance to turn tables on Sri Lanka in the fourth innings on a wearing pitch.The highest successful run chase on this ground is 99 by Sri Lanka against Pakistan in 2014 and any target higher than that no team has chased down. But those stats should not deter the Lankans because whatever target they are left to chase they need to buckle down and get the job done.Before Watling’s bold fight back it was opener Tom Latham who held the innings together with a gritty 45 off 81 balls and his partnership of 56 for the fourth wicket with Henry Nicholls (26).
    Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya who went wicketless in the first innings was in his element yesterday picking up the prize wickets of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson (4) and their experienced batter Ross Taylor (3) to leave them struggling at 25-3 at one stage. Embuldeniya looked the most dangerous of the three spinners used by Sri Lanka and ended the day with four wickets for 71. Akila Dananjaya who picked up five in the first innings took one wicket, but Dhananjaya de Silva was the surprise package.
    Picked mainly for his batting in the Test side he rolled his arm over and prized out two vital wickets with his off-breaks conceding just 16 runs off 10 overs. Sri Lanka’s last three wickets added a further 40 runs before they were dismissed for 267 in reply to New Zealand’s 249, giving them a slender 18-run lead. From the position Sri Lanka were at one stage 161-7 it was a superb recovery to get past the New Zealand total.That was made possible by the eighth wicket partnership of 81 between Niroshan Dickwella and Suranga Lakmal. Lakmal who took a painful blow on his right elbow from a Trent Boult short ball was dismissed two balls later for a plucky knock of 40 scored off 98 balls inclusive of two sixes and three fours.
    Dickwella who was on 41 when Lakmal was out continued to farm the strike with the tail to add a further 25 runs to the total and in the process completed his 12th Test fifty and second against New Zealand. He played incredibly well showing a great degree of restraint from his natural game to score 61 off 109 balls (3 fours) and get his team ahead of New Zealand. Off-spinner William Somerville took two wickets yesterday to end with figures of 3 for 83 while Ajaz Patel who took five wickets on day two failed to pick up a wicket and had figures of 5 for 89.

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