New Zealand ended the third day of the first match against Sri Lanka in the driver seat after reaching 171-1 in their second innings at stumps to hold an overall lead of 308 on an increasingly troublesome pitch in Dunedin on Saturday.
Opener Tom Latham was 72 not out at the end of play with Kane Williamson who, in reaching 48 not out, passed 1,000 runs in the calendar year.
Martin Guptill was the only man out for New Zealand, bowled by Rangana Herath for 46 to surpass 200 runs in the match after his 156 was the foundation of New Zealand’s first innings.
In Guptill’s dismissal, there was a dire warning for Sri Lanka, which faces the prospect of having to bat for a long time to avoid defeat in the first match of a two-test series.
The delivery from Herath pitched on a good length, drawing a standard defensive shot from Guptill, but the ball gripped on an uneven spot on the pitch and shot forward, under Guptill’s bat to strike the base of middle stump.
From there on, Latham and Williamson steered New Zealand to stumps in a partnership worth 92 runs by close of play.
The lead has been built on New Zealand dominance of the first innings. Earlier Saturday it ended Sri Lanka’s first innings at 294 in reply to its 431 to take a lead of 137.
Sri Lanka resumed at 198-4 Saturday and suffered a body blow in its effort to substantially reduce New Zealand’s advantage when Dinesh Chandimal was out to the second ball of the day at his overnight score of 83.
Chandimal’s 121-run third wicket partnership with Dimuth Karunaratne (84) provided the backbone of Sri Lanka’s innings and his team looked to him to go on Saturday and lead the assault on New Zealand’s total.
Tim Southee removed Chandimal and his overnight batting partner Kithuruwan Vithanage (22) within three overs of the resumption to tilt the match heavily in New Zealand’s favor. He finished with 3-71 and Neil Wagner had 3-87.
The Sri Lanka tail put up a fight, epitomized by Herath who batted two hours for 15 runs, showing fortitude after being struck on the helmet by a Southee bouncer.
Wicketkeeper B.J. Watling finished with six catches, having passed 100 test dismissals on the second day.
“A pretty hard day’s toil,” Wagner said. “We had to work pretty hard to get those wickets and the guys batted pretty well and we’re in a pretty good position so looking forward to what’s coming tomorrow.”
Wagner said it wasn’t clear how many runs New Zealand would need before considering a declaration.
“We’ll reassess in the morning,” he said. “We’ll come out again and try to play quite positively and see what happens and whatever is given to us to defend we’ll try as hard as we can to get those 10 wickets.”
Latham made 22 in the first innings, missing out as most of the remainder of the New Zealand top order made big scores. He atoned Saturday with his seventh half century in his 15th test, which was watchful but punctuated by sound attacking shots.
Williamson continued his relentless accumulation in 2015, approaching his second half century of the match after making 88 in the first innings.