By Amindha de Alwis
New Zealand went in to stumps holding a 138 run lead on the back of a dominant batting display on Day 4 of the final match of the two-test series.
Tom Latham and BJ Watling crafted a 143-run partnership before Colin de Grandhomme walked in and put the Sri Lankan bowlers to the sword with a stroke filled unbeaten 83 as he and Watling put on a second 100-run stand to put New Zealand firmly in the ascendency.
Provided the weather holds, the Kiwis will be looking for quick runs today with an eye at putting Sri Lanka under pressure in the second innings. The hosts’ chances of drawing the test will be compounded due to an injury to Captain Dimuth Karunaratne who did not take the field on Day 4 after suffering an slight tear to his quadriceps muscle on Day 3. Karunaratne will not be able to bat any higher than number 7 in the second innings due to him not having taken the field following the injury. Niroshan Dickwella also sustained a finger injury but will have no restriction on his batting position due to it being an external injury.
Earlier, overnight batsmen Tom Latham and BJ Watling made Sri Lanka toil in the afternoon after poor weather conditions forced a complete washout of the morning session. Latham had a slice of luck during Lahiru Kumara’s opening spell of the day when he slashed one just over Angelo Mathews at first slip who failed to get his hands up in time. The two batsmen brought up their 100-run partnership soon afterwards, negotiating both pace and spin without much distress.
Sri Lanka would’ve hoped for some respite with the second new ball but Latham continued to look imperious as moved on to 150 on the back of some delightful cover-drives off Suranga Lakmal. Dilruwan Perera eventually made the breakthrough for the hosts when he got one to skid on and trap Latham in front for a well-made 154.
Having already overhauled the Sri Lankan first innings total, the aggressive de Grandhomme walked in with the situation tailor-made to suit his style of play and Sri Lanka made a costly error when Dinesh Chandimal put down an outside edge off the bowling of Lasith Embuldeniya.
De Grandhomme was only on 13 at the time and he gave a sign of what was to come when he launched Dilruwan Perera out of the ground over long-on in the very next over. Runs came thick and fast thereafter with de Grandhomme motoring along to his 50 with some trademark big hitting that included a 19-run over off Embuldeniya.
At the other end, Watling continued to go about his work in another gritty innings to follow up his knock in Galle. While he was soon overtaken by the rampaging de Grandhomme, Watling’s role in two major partnerships was instrumental in putting the visitors in the strong position they find themselves in.
Another short rain delay in the evening could not halt De Grandhomme’s charge as he powered his way up to 83 before bad light stopped play at 5.45 p.m.