New Zealand will head into the final day of the second Test at Christchurch against Sri Lanka needing just four wickets to secure a well-deserved series win.
Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal stood firm for Sri Lanka for 53 overs in compiling a third-wicket stand of 117 off 318 balls as they did their best to defy a New Zealand side desperate to snatch a series win after a brilliant first three days with bat and ball.
Mendis was the first to fall, playing a loose drive into the covers off Neil Wagner, where substitute fielder Matt Henry took a superb diving catch. Mendis scored 67 off 147 balls (10×4), his eighth Test half-century in his 67th innings, with six tons also under his belt.
Chandimal was the really big wicket of the day, eventually falling with the score on 158 after a stodgy 56 off 228 balls (5×4) – but it was a superb example of doing what his team required of him. New Zealand batting hero Henry Nicholls held the catch off a nasty lifter from Wagner.
The Sri Lankan middle order put together a brave show of resistance, but Wagner and Tim Southee kept chipping away at the opposition. Angelo Mathews retired hurt after scoring 24 off 54 balls, while Roshen Silva (18 off 73) and Niroshan Dickwella (19 off 31) dug deep for a while to lift the score to 203-6 after 95.4 overs to keep alive their slim hopes of securing a draw to share the series.
Sri Lanka will need to bat out the final day needing 429 runs for an impossible victory and with just four wickets in hand (including that of the injured Mathews) to secure a draw. At the crease are Dilruwan Perera (Test batting average of 19.65) on 22 off 60 balls and Suranga Lakmal (Test batting average of 11.33) on 16 off 22 balls.
Wagner’s 3-47 (econ 1.67) was the pick of the bowlers, with Southee (2-61) picking up two valuable wickets. Trent Boult was the most expensive with the ball, taking 1-73 off 27 overs (11 maidens), while Ajaz Patel found little in the way of scoring opposition as he sent down 12 overs for just 21 runs (econ 1.75).
It’s by no means impossible for Sri Lanka to salvage a draw if Mathews can pad up again, and if the weather perhaps weighs in with some assistance (and if the remaining batters produce an exceptional day of defensive batting), but New Zealand will be confident of securing a well-deserved victory to give them the series win to round off a successful 2018 campaign.
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