Karunaratne and Williamson will look for a winning start in the World Test championship
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Rain plays spoilsport
After the short break, Taylor again cracked the sweep to put Embuldeniya under the pump. The left-arm spinner has had a poor day. With the seasoned campaigner just 14 away from a superlative ton, the groundsmen again decided to bring in the covers as a precautionary measure.
Unfortunately, it started to rain heavily and stumps were drawn. The day certainly belonged to Taylor and Dananjaya. And with the score reading 203 for 5 on a track offering assistance for spinners, we could be in for a crackerjack of a game.
With the sun shining again the covers are off and play should start shortly.
It has got quite murky at Galle and the covers are firmly in place as a precautionary measure.
The Taylor and Dananjaya show
In what has turned out to be a gripping Test so far, with its fair share of twists and turns, Ross Taylor (70*) and Henry Nicholls stitched a crucial stand of 100 for the fourth wicket to prop up New Zealand. However, just like the first session, Akila Dananjaya struck on the stroke of the Tea break to reduce the visitors to 179 for 5.
New Zealand began the session at 71 for 3 and in some trouble. However, Taylor took the aggressive approach after the break and employed his tried and tested sweep alongside the loft and the short-arm pull to put Sri Lanka under pressure. In the second over of the session, he clubbed the slog sweep off Lasith Embuldeniya and then a few overs later skipped down the track to loft the same bowler.
Taylor's enterprise with the willow set the tone for New Zealand. Nicholls also employed the conventional sweep to good effect to keep the scorecard ticking over. Taylor soon reached his fifty with single off Lahiru Kumara. Just when it seemed as if New Zealand would end up without losing a wicket in the session, Dananjaya again turned out to be Sri Lanka's go-to-man, as the spinner trapped Nicholls in front. The southpaw took the review but to no avail.
The key to the dismissal was Dananjaya shortening his length a tad, making it harder for Nicholls to get on top of the ball. The spinner then bagged his fifth scalp by winning an LBW decision against BJ Watling. In fact, for most part of the session, Sri Lanka's spinners were perhaps guilty of bowling too full, allowing the duo of Taylor and Nicholls to sweep. The hosts also had the chance to run out Taylor, but Dimuth Karunaratne, the captain, couldn't fire in a good throw at the striker's end.
Taylor and the good old sweep...
The duo of Taylor and Nicholls has shared a 50-run stand. Taylor has continued to sweep and used the occasional short-arm pull. There was a lucky escape for Taylor when he and Nicholls had a horrible mix-up, but Dimuth couldn't fire in a good throw at the striker's end. Eventually, he also reached his fifty while facing Kumara. The visitors have wrested back the advantage.
On the other hand, the home team's spinners seem to get rattled easily when someone brings out the sweep.
When someone starts sweeping, the current set of Lankan spinners seem to get rattled easily. We saw that when England rattled them #SlvNZ
Taylor in fine fettle
After the break, Taylor cracked slog sweeps and the occasional loft. The experienced batsman has taken New Zealand past the three-figure mark. Meanwhile, Dananjaya isn't getting that fizz he was generating in the first session. Maybe a tad tired?
Action and drama in the final fifteen minutes of the session!! At 63 for no loss after 26 overs, the openers seemed to have taken New Zealand to safer waters. Just that in the nick of time, with a few minutes to go for the break, Dananjaya dismissed Latham. The southpaw got into two minds while playing Dananjaya and edged one behind. Kane Williamson, the skipper, didn't last long as he nudged one straight to the fielder at short midwicket in the same over. To make matters worse, Raval too succumbed to Dananjaya's googly and nicked one to the slip fielder.
It is going to be an uphill task for two new batsmen to get in after the break with the ball turning and gripping.
Sri Lanka in search of wickets
At the drinks break, New Zealand have progressed to 21 for no loss. Dananjaya was introduced into the attack and found some turn to beat the bat of Raval, but the New Zealand camp would be happy with their progress so far. On the other hand, Sri Lanka haven't let the visitors to get off to a brisk start, and a wicket could change the script.
Cautious New Zealand
Kumara and Lakmal have been tidy so far - a hint of nip and a tad bit of swing. Maybe the duo could have made Latham and Raval at more deliveries. Meanwhile, Raval cracked the only boundary of the innings so far - a cut stroke off Kumara.
Williamson wins the toss & says well have a bat! Boult, Southee & 3 spinners (Santner, Somerville, Patel) IN. Wagner, CDG, Astle & Blundell sitting out. #SLvNZ #WTC21 pic.twitter.com/MZbRIL89er
New Zealand have won the crucial toss and opted to bat. At Galle, where, it usually helps spinners later on in the game, batting first would be preferred option. As expected they have gone in with three spinners - Ajaz, Somerville and Santner.
Due to rain, there could be a hint of moisture and the ball may nip around a touch early doors. And as scientists say moisture also indirectly helps swing. However, one expects the Galle track to mostly help spinners.
"A very good looking pitch, it's different to normal Galle pitches, it's hard and will come nicely onto the bat. You'll get some swing with the new ball, spinners will come into play from Day 3 onwards. Win the toss and bat first," opines Russel Arnold, in his pitch report
Unfortunately, there was rain this morning but it seems to have relented and the covers were taken off roughly 30 minutes back. The forecast is for scattered showers.
Sport brings different cultures closer together and also promotes peace, acting as a catalyst for harmony. Cricket is one of those sports that has played a key role in understanding different cultures.
New Zealand and Sri Lanka cricket teams. Two island nations, but 10,925 kilometers apart and culturally different. By now, the New Zealand cricket team has visited Sri Lanka seven times. The last one being in 2012-13 when the series was drawn 1-1.
Over the years, a few bilateral series have been marred by controversies. The tour of 1987 was cancelled midway by civil disturbances - a bomb exploded (Pettah bus station) near the New Zealand team's hotel. It is scary to imagine that Martin Crowe, one of the members of the side, once recalled that on the fifth day of the first Test, the visitors had taken a different route to drop Phil Horne, the opener, at the physio's table. And the bomb had exploded via the route through which they used to normally take to commute. Even in 1992-93, the tour was marred by an explosion.
Leaving aside civil disturbances, the two sides have been part of some keenly-contested games. However, New Zealand have won a mere four Tests in Sri Lanka and not won a Test rubber in the island nation since 1984!
The Kane Williamson-led New Zealand side, which scripted a famous series win in the UAE last year, would look to change New Zealand's dismal record in Sri Lanka. Moreover, after the heartbreaking World Cup final, New Zealand also have the added incentive of starting their World Test Championship on a perfect note.
Sri Lanka, too, would look to begin their World Test Championship journey on a winning note in Galle. The Karunaratne-led unit also would take confidence from their historic series victory in South Africa. However, the last time Sri Lanka played at home, they slipped to a 3-0 loss to England on turning wickets.
Toss and teams in a while...