Wicket-keeper batsman Niroshan Dickwella returned from the wilderness of world cup sidelining and from the ODI series against Bangladesh with a fighting top score of 61 to haul Sri Lanka out of trouble to 267 which set the stage for Lasith Embuldeniya’s 4-wicket burst to pin New Zealand to 195 for 7 wickets at stumps on the third day of the first test of the ICC World Test Championship at the Galle International Cricket Stadium yesterday. With a slender 18-run first innings lead, the match was evenly poised with New Zealand 177 on anchored by a battling unbeaten 63 by Watling as the contest looked destined for a decision with two days play remaining.
Dickwella’s courage filled 109-ball knock consuming 171 minutes curbing instinctive hammer and go penchant not only saved the blushes for Sri Lanka but underlined the importance of giving player confidence continuity in exposing the undermining flawed selection policies as he lifted Sri Lanka from the dumps of 161 for 7 by a 81-run eighth wicket alliance with Suranga Lakmal who was equally game to the situation with a plucky 40. Just the 3 boundaries illustrated the dour resolve to the team cause with the team cause with Lakmal a contrasting cushion bordering on the bold by his 98-ball knock consuming 118 minutes spiced with 3 boundaries and 2 sixes. )
It was the perfect scripting for Sri Lanka’s spinners to cash on and cash on did Lasith Embuldeniya. In only his third Test appearance, he claimed the prize wickets of skipper Kane Williamson for 4 caught by Kusal Janith Perera and Ross Taylor for 3 well held by Dhananjaya de Silva to leave the visitors tottering on 25 for 3.
It precipitated to 81 for 4 when Akila Dananjaya got rid of the stubborn Nathan for 45 caught by Lahiru Thirimanne. When Embuldeniya added to his bag the wickets of Santner for 12 to a catch by Lakmal and a dogged Southee for 23 stumped by Dickwella, New Zealand were reduced to 178 for 7 as Watling battled on to take his side to 195 without further loss at stumps.
New Zealand 1st innings 249 and 195/7(Watling 63 n.o., Embuldeniya 4/71))
Sri Lanka 267 (93.2Overs) Run Rate: 2.86 (Dickwella 61, Mendis 53, Mathews 50, Lakmal 40, Patel 5/89)
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-