Tom Latham made a gritty half century to hold together a deteriorating innings as New Zealand replied to Sri Lanka's first innings of 355 Friday on the second day of the first cricket Test. (More Cricket News)
At stumps New Zealand was 162-5, still 193 behind with two allrounders at the crease. Daryl Mitchell was 40 and had batted for more than two hours and Michael Bracewell was 9.
The Sri Lanka bowlers capitalized on a good effort by their batters to the put the tourists in a strong position at the end of the second day. The bowlers were able to do far more with the ball Friday than the New Zealanders were able to do even on the first day and after winning the toss.
The ball seamed throughout the day and batting never was easy for the New Zealanders, who relied heavily on the innings of Latham and Mitchell.
"It was tricky pretty much the whole innings,” Latham said. “With the new ball it was probably a bit easier.
“I think once the ball got a bit older, the wicket probably hardened up a bit and probably got a bit quicker. The ball was seaming at a decent pace. They obviously bowl very well and didn't give us a lot to hit whether that was off the front foot or the back foot.”
Sri Lanka was 305-6 after a good first day on which it responded to the challenge of batting first after losing the toss. The tourists added 50 runs for their last four wickets, reasonable return as New Zealand took the second new ball five overs after the start of play.
The New Zealand new ball pair of Tim Southee and Matt Henry shared the last four wickets. Southee finished with 5-64, his 15th five-wicket total in tests, and Henry took 4-80.
New Zealand came out to bat about 30 minutes before the lunch break and probably couldn't have asked for better conditions. The pitch hadn't shown much during the first innings and Hagley Park was bathed in bright sunshine, perfect seeing conditions.
But the Sri Lanka seamers found a much more testing length than the New Zealanders and brought the ball back sharply at both left and right handers — just short of a length the bounce was unpredictable.
Tom Latham and Devon Conway put on 67 for the first wicket but battled against the accuracy and persistence of the Sri Lanka bowlers.
After a few near misses, Conway was trapped lbw by Asitha Fernando when he was 30. Conway appeared to be batting on off stump and the ball pitched well outside off and cut back. The umpire's call was out, Conway reviewed and the replay showed the ball was just clipping the top of off stump.
With Conway's loss, New Zealand slumped to 76-3.
Kane Williamson, a century-maker in his last innings, attempted to drive a ball from Lahiru Kumara through cover but the ball didn't come on as he expected, he mistimed the shot and stuck the ball directly to Dimuth Karunaratne.
Henry Nicholls came and went quickly. He attempted to pull a ball from Kumara, mis-judged the bounce and skied a catch to Kasun Rajitha at short mid-wicket.
Latham remained the prop of the innings, reaching his half century from 122 balls. It was his 27th half century in tests and his 11th in New Zealand.
Latham then formed a partnership with Daryl Mitchell which added 58 runs for the fourth wicket but which was made difficult by the Sri Lanka bowlers who continued to find testing lines and beat the bat.
Just as the partners looked to be setting in Asitha produced the ball of the day, a searing yorker which ripped through Latham's flick shot and clipped his toes before the stumps. He was 67 and New Zealand was 134-4.