x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Jayawardene steadies Sri Lanka

Unbeaten half-centuries from Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera gave Sri Lanka the edge on day one of the second Test against New Zealand.

COLOMBO // Unbeaten half-centuries from Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera gave Sri Lanka the edge on day one of the second Test against New Zealand. Jayawardene scored 79 and put on 147 runs in an unbroken stand for the fourth wicket with Samaraweera (78 not out). The pair built on a knock of 50 from Kumar Sangakkara as Sri Lanka picked up the pace to advance to 263 for three at stumps.

The Black Caps, led by captain Daniel Vettori, who claimed his 300th Test victim to become only the eighth player to achieve the 300 wickets-3,000 runs double, had kept the home side on a tight leash until Jayawardene and Samaraweera came together. Vettori, who shouldered the bulk of the bowling, gave the visitors a bright start in the morning by dismissing opener Tharanga Paranavitana in his first over.

Paranavitana, who had scores of zero and five in the first Test in Galle, began with two edged boundaries off Chris Martin, but fell for 19 when Vettori brought himself on. The captain struck with his second delivery, getting Paranavitana to push at one that drifted in slightly. Ross Taylor at slip held the edge nicely. Tillakaratne Dilshan, the cornerstone of Sri Lanka's triumph in the first Test at Galle, battled hard against an accurate line from new-ball bowlers Martin and Iain O'Brien in the morning, but fell early in the second session after having seemingly done all the hard work.

O'Brien had dropped a caught-and-bowled chance when Dilshan flayed one back to him, but the batsman lobbed another return catch to the bowler off the very next delivery to end his stay. Dilshan faced 58 deliveries for his 29 runs and struck only one boundary. Sangakkara began his innings briskly, getting off the mark immediately and sweeping Vettori through mid-wicket for a boundary. A similar shot in the next over from Vettori fetched him another boundary, while he struck a third off Jacob Oram.

Despite a defensive field, Sangakkara attempted to take the fight to the bowlers and swept Vettori through mid-wicket for another boundary to reach his half-century off 94 balls. He fell two deliveries later, sweeping straight to Oram at deep mid-wicket and helping Vettori achieve the milestone. The left-arm spinner is the second player from New Zealand after Richard Hadlee to achieve the double and he joins a list that includes England's Sir Ian Botham, India's Kapil Dev and Australia's Shane Warne.

Sangakkara's dismissal left Sri Lanka at a precarious 135 for three, but it also brought Jayawardene and Samaraweera together and the two took up the task of rebuilding. Jayawardene, playing on his home ground, had been cautious initially. His first boundary came off the 62nd delivery he faced, but he built his innings steadily against a thrifty New Zealand attack. He reached his half-century, the 34th of his career, by pulling O'Brien to deep mid-wicket, the former captain running three after the ball stopped just inside the ropes.

Samaraweera, in contrast, began with a sweetly driven boundary and was far more aggressive during his stay at the crease. The 32-year-old middle-order batsman reached his 20th half-century by hitting Jesse Ryder for a couple of boundaries, the second a touch fortunate as it flew through the slip cordon. Vettori sent down 30 overs and his two wickets came at the expense of 65 runs. * PA Sport