Sangakkara dominates first day

As wickets tumbled around him, Kumar Sangakkara produced one of the finest Test innings seen in New Zealand for quite some time, finishing not out on 156 from a total of 268 all out on the first day of the second Test between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at the Basin Reserve today. When Sri Lanka’s innings came to an end soon after the tea break it seemed fairly evenly poised, but an impressive bowling effort particularly by Lasith Malinga resulted in New Zealand being in some trouble at 66-4 at stumps.

After receiving some criticism for making the same decision in the first Test in Christchurch, Mahela Jayawardene won the toss and elected to bat first and once again it seemed to be an unwise decision as Sanath Jayasuriya was caught by Stephen Fleming off the bowling of Chris Martin before a run had been scored. Martin, who took the first six wickets to fall in the last Test between the two teams on this ground, seemed set for a repeat as he took the first three to leave Sri Lanka in some trouble at 41-3. Sangakkara though had very little trouble throughout his innings and played some amazing shots, bringing up his 50 when the team score was just 70. As difficult as it is to believe, his innings today was even better than his 100 not out, of the 170 all out in the second innings in Christchurch.

When Chamara Silva joined him in the middle with the score at 81-4 Sangakkara had finally found someone able to accompany him in a reasonable partnership, something Sri Lanka were desperately in need of with very little batting to come after them. A nervous start, in which Silva was desperate to get off the mark following his two ducks on debut in Christchurch, was followed by increasingly confident strokeplay as the two batted through to lunch at 112-4.

After the break they continued much the same way, if anything increasing the scoring rate as they dominated the first hour of the second session, scoring at a rate more suited to a one-day international than to a Test. New Zealand were not only being hurt psychologically by the spectacular onslaught, but also suffered physically in that Jacob Oram only managed three overs before being ruled out for the remainder of the day with a hamstring strain.

The bowlers became more and more frustrated as the boundaries continued to be struck by the ball frequently, alarmingly so for a New Zealand supporter. The score reached 202 before Silva departed for 61, an excellent innings that clearly demonstrated his talent and suggested that his failures at Christchurch were not an indication that he was out of his depth at this level.

Once the breakthrough fifth wicket was taken the rest fell in fairly quick time, with Shane Bond and Daniel Vettori both being rewarded for good bowling with two and three wickets respectively. The regular loss of wickets had seemingly no impact on Sangakkara though as he continued to strike every ball with the middle of the bat and score runs at an impressive rate, eventually finishing unbeaten on 156 in what must be one of the best Test innings seen in New Zealand in many years.

New Zealand would have been delighted to have been batting late in the first day after losing the toss and bowling, and at 30-0 in the tenth over would have been feeling even better. But from there it all went downhill as openers Craig Cumming and Jamie How fell in successive overs, Fleming soon followed without scoring and Nathan Astle was clean bowled in what proved to be the last ball of the day, completing yet another upper-order collapse after losing four wickets for seven and ten runs respectively in Christchurch. It could have been even worse, with Mathew Sinclair giving a straightforward chance to Sangakkara at first slip only to see the ball go through the hands and land safely on the ground.

The first two sessions of play belonged to Sangakkara, who hit 21 fours and a six in his 265-ball innings and guided his Test average past 50. The final session though belonged to Malinga, who bowled with fearsome pace and claimed 3-37 in just under ten dangerous overs. Sinclair will resume tomorrow on 6 not out and no doubt with a number of bruises after being struck by several 145km/h bouncers in his nervous stay at the crease.

Although they cannot genuinely hope for an innings like the one played by Sangakkara, the likes of which are only seen once every summer at the moest, New Zealand are desperately in need of a partnership like the one he and Silva produced for the fifth wicket. With Oram likely to be impaired by his injury New Zealand’s batting lineup looks somewhat more fragile than usual, meaning that a lot rests on the bruised shoulders of Mathew Sinclair.

Sri Lanka 268 all out
Kumar Sangakkara 156 no, Chamara Silva 61
Chris Martin 3-50, Daniel Vettori 3-53

New Zealand 66-4
Jamie How 26, Nathan Astle 17
Lasith Malinga 3-37, Farveez Maharoof 1-10

Sri Lanka lead by 202 runs.

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