New Zealand were eyeing an historic victory as injury and a barrage of Neil Wagner bouncers left Sri Lanka in tatters at the close of day four of the second Test in Christchurch on Saturday. The conditions were tailor-made for short-ball specialist Wagner, New Zealand bowling coach Shane Jurgensen said, as Sri Lanka were 231 [...]


New Zealand eye victory as Wagner rocks Sri Lanka


New Zealand were eyeing an historic victory as injury and a barrage of Neil Wagner bouncers left Sri Lanka in tatters at the close of day four of the second Test in Christchurch on Saturday.

Mendis in full swing

The conditions were tailor-made for short-ball specialist Wagner, New Zealand bowling coach Shane Jurgensen said, as Sri Lanka were 231 for six at stumps.

At most they have only four wickets left, but with doubt whether the injured Angelo Mathews will return to help them survive the final day.

At the crease were Dilruwan Perera on 22 and Suranga Lakmal on 16 with their 660-run target out of sight.

Wagner, who had little success earlier in the series, broke through stubborn Sri Lankan resistance, with figures of three for 47 from a marathon 28 overs.

“I think he showed what he could do once he had a little bit more bounce on offer. I thought he bowled with really good pace and really questioned the Sri Lankan batsmen,” Jurgensen said.

“I was commenting in our viewing area saying I think this day is set up for Neil.

“He was really licking his lips today to have a good crack and he certainly had that.” After rain ensured a drawn first Test in Wellington, a win in the Christchurch decider would give New Zealand a fourth consecutive series win for the first time after beating the West Indies, England and Pakistan earlier this year.

Despite losing both openers in the first two overs of their second innings, Sri Lanka fought to stay in the game until Wagner came into the frame.

Skipper Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Mendis produced stubborn resistance for 53 overs for the third wicket before Mendis went for 67.

They had seen off the swing and seam of New Zealand strike bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult at the start of the day, were untroubled by spinner Ajaz Patel, and initially they dodged the barrage aimed at the ribs by Wagner.

But Mendis, who in the course of his innings became only the second player behind India’s Virat Kohli to score 1,000 Test runs this year, was frustrated as Wagner forced him on to the back foot with four successive deliveries.

When the next ball was full length, the 23-year-old could not resist going for the drive and was smartly caught by substitute fielder Matt Henry diving to his left at extra cover.

Angelo Mathews, who in the first three innings of the series scored 236 runs and was dismissed only once, reached 22 when he was forced to retire at tea with a hamstring injury after hobbling between the wickets for the last 10 minutes before the interval.

Chandimal faced 228 deliveries before he fell victim to a Wagner bouncer that zipped from the gloves to the helmet and into the hands of close-in fielder Henry Nicholls.

Niroshan Dickwella reached 19 before he chopped a wide Southee delivery on to his stumps.

Silva and Dilruwan Perera took Sri Lanka past the 200 mark before Wagner struck again with Silva caught behind for 18.

Wagner also clouted Perera on the helmet with a rising delivery just before stumps but the batsman was able to play on after being checked by medical staff.

Bittersweet day for Mendis
Sri Lanka’s young batting maestro Kusal Mendis cemented a stellar year Saturday by passing 1,000 runs in 2018 but the occasion was tempered by his untimely dismissal in the second Test against New Zealand.The 23-year-old was torn between celebrating being the second player behind India’s run machine Virat Kohli to achieve the 1,000 milestone and ruing Sri Lanka’s precarious position with a day remaining in the series deciding Test.

Sri Lanka resumed the day at 24 for two with Mendis and skipper Dinesh Chandimal steeled to bat through all three sessions to give the tourists a chance to draw the match and series.

Instead, after facing 147 deliveries he was out to a loose shot midway through the middle session and at stumps on day four Sri Lanka were 231 for six with their 660-run target out of sight.

Of reaching 1,000 runs, Mendis said he was “really glad I was able to do it at 23, and I had challenged myself to get there in this last game.” When he was out for 67, caught at extra cover off Neil Wagner, Mendis had 1,023 runs from 23 innings at 46.50. Kohli has amassed 1,322 from 24 innings at 55.08.

“I’m really happy. I did have that target in mind,” he said.

“In the first few matches of the year I didn’t have that in my head, but later on, after I’d played a few games this year, and scored a few runs, then I became pretty intent on getting to 1,000 runs.” However, his dismissal when Sri Lanka needed a long partnership took the gloss off the day.

“That’s a bit disappointing,” he said.

“The plan was to bat as many balls as possible, as had been the case in Wellington. I tried to make the ball older and softer. If runs came, then that’s a bonus. So we took it hour by hour and tried to break the work up that way.

“I was able to bat a session and a half, but if I’d been able to support Chandi a little bit better, we might have been able to finish today without a wicket as well.” Wagner lured Mendis into the dismissal shot with a series of short balls that forced him on to the back foot and then pitching one up the brought the lofted drive.

“I don’t think that was a great ball to drive. After looking at the replays, that’s probably what I take from it. I was trying to hit through extra cover. The fielder was close, and I hit it too far in the air.

“It’s one that I really could have left alone, but I made the wrong decision. Hopefully I can learn from it. “


New Zealand v Sri Lanka
second test scoreboard

New Zealand first innings 178 (T. Southee 68, B. Watling 46; Lakmal 5-54)
Sri Lanka first innings 104 (A. Mathews 33no; Boult 6-30, Southee 3-35)
New Zealand second innings 585-4 dec (T. Latham 176, H. Nicholls 162no, C. de Grandhomme 71no, J. Raval 74; Kumara 2-134)
Sri Lanka second innings (overnight 24-2)
D. Gunathilaka c Watling b Southee 4
D. Karunaratne c Watling b Boult 0
D. Chandimal c Nicholls b Wagner 56
K. Mendis c sub (Henry) b Wagner 67
A. Mathews retired hurt 22
R. Silva c Watling b Wagner 18
N. Dickwella b Southee 19
D. Perera not out 22
S. Lakmal not out 16
Extras (b 4, lb 2, wd 1) 7
Total (for 6 wickets, 104 overs) 231
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Karunaratne), 2-9 (Gunathilaka), 3-126 (Mendis), 4-158 (Chandimal), 5-181 (Dickwella), 6-208 (Silva)
Bowling: Boult 27-11-73-1, Southee 27-13-61-2, de Grandhomme 10-1-23-0 (1w), Wagner 28-10-47-3, Patel 12-9-21-0

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