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Sri Lanka gains the upper hand after day two thanks to Rajitha, Kumara, and Asitha.

Sri Lanka gains the upper hand after day two thanks to Rajitha, Kumara, and Asitha.

Stumps Sri Lanka 355 (Mendis 87, Southee 5-64, Henry 4-80) lead New Zealand 162 for 5 (Latham 67, Mitchell 40*, Kumara 2-34, Asitha 2-42) by 193 runs.

On the second day of action at Hagley Oval, Sri Lanka’s seamers gave the visitors the advantage as New Zealand’s batters struggled to match Sri Lanka’s first innings total of 355. In the closing 30 minutes of play, Kasun Rajitha—possibly the best bowler—captured a deserving wicket while Asitha Fernando and Lahiru Kumara each took two wickets. Tom Latham led the way for the hosts with a tenacious 67, and at the close of play, Daryl Mitchell and Michael Bracewell were both still unbeaten on 40.

But, the day was one that belonged to the seamers, starting with the New Zealand team of Tim Southee and Matt Henry who, in the morning session, took care of the Sri Lankan innings by taking four more wickets between them.

The rest of the Lankan tail rallied together to contribute another 40 runs, bringing Sri Lanka’s total to 355. Dhananjaya de Silva, the last known batter, perished having added just 10 runs to his overnight total.
For their part, the New Zealand openers easily completed the six overs before noon. During lunch, New Zealand made sluggish but steady progress while Latham was moving. Together with Devon Conway, his opening partner, he overcame the early movement used by players like Asitha and Rajitha. There was also a little bit more zip to the surface than on the first day, which helped players like Kumara.

To establish boundaries, the pair awaited sporadic short and wide deliveries while continuing their work of milking ones and twos on the side and down the ground. The two would put on 67 runs for the opening partnership, but Asitha supplied the breakthrough by persuading one bowler to sneak back and trap Conway leg before, just as Sri Lanka’s seamers could have begun to tire. Conway might consider it a bit unfortunate that the on-field umpire called him out, although DRS showed the umpire’s decision on both impact and whether the ball touched the wickets.

Kane Williamson complied on the stroke of tea with an uppish drive straight to the guy catching at cover, giving Sri Lanka a newfound surge of energy to pursue a second before the break as a result of that wicket. Shortly after the game resumed, Henry Nicholls would lose his grip and top edge a pull from Lahiru Kumara.

At this moment, Sri Lanka was clearly in the lead. The outstanding Rajitha, who would torture Mitchell, who had just come at the crease, by probing and tease his off stump, served as a highlight of the situation. Mitchell’s survival throughout this time was something of a miracle, especially after one delivery that, to use a football slang term, might have given him twisted blood.

Rajitha would pitch this at an angle from slightly outside the crease, on the brink of a good length, and then get it to curve away at the last end, beating Mitchell and the stumps by the thinnest of margins. His stumps would have been in danger if it weren’t for a graze on the outside of the pad.

The only mistake Sri Lanka made was giving Angelo Mathews, who bowls at 115 kph, the ball during this time. Yet, the reasoning behind it was understandable: give the front-line seamers a break while still taking use of the swing that was there. The New Zealand hitters received a brief reprieve during this period thanks to Mitchell’s memorable six-run shot off Mathews.
Before another flash of brilliance swung the pendulum back in favor of the visitors, Mitchell and Latham would go on to put on 58 together. Once Prabath Jayasuriya and Dhananjaya de Silva and other spinners had a chance to spin for a while, Asitha came back to quickly dismiss Latham with a yorker to the leg stump from behind the wicket and an animated dismissal to boot.

Then, following yet another superb out swinger on off stump, Rajitha would eventually get the wicket his performance deserved by getting Blundell to nick one through.

Nonetheless, with a 193-run gap ahead of them, Sri Lanka would definitely be the happier of the two teams going into day three. Mitchell and Bracewell would make it until the end of play.

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