Andrew Fidel Fernando
Suranga Lakmal bowled brilliantly, but the period in which Sri Lanka’s younger seamers – Lahiru Kumara and Kasun Rajitha – attempted a short-pitched barrage “worked in New Zealand’s favour” according to Tim Southee.
Top-scoring for his team with 68 off 65 balls, Southee collected 29 of his runs behind square on the legside – a tally that included three top-edged sixes and two fours. Partner BJ Watling, with whom Southee mounted a 108-run seventh-wicket stand, also scored heavily off the short balls, hitting 26 of his 46 runs behind square on the off side.
“I guess they changed their tactics that had worked so well for them for the first six wickets, and that probably worked in our favour,” Southee said. “The fuller balls worked better on that pitch than the shorter ones, and when they bowled short, we were just trying to cash in on that.”
Lakmal, though, had maintained a relatively full length throughout his 19 overs, and picked up career-best figures of 5 for 54.
“We knew it was going to be tough after losing the toss, but Lakmal bowled extremely well and asked some tough questions,” Southee said. “We’ve had other teams come to this part of the world and win the toss, and we’ve still been able to put a reasonable score on the board. A lot of credit has to go to the way Lakmal bowled. Early on he got his lengths right and was a real handful.”
Having opened the bowling, Lakmal was unchanged until lunch, delivering 12 overs in the session, He then returned after the break to deliver four further overs, making it 16 in a row – the longest-equal new-ball spell by a seam bowler since at least 2001. He was instrumental in dismissing New Zealand for 178, taking four wickets in that first session, before picking up the wicket of Neil Wagner in the second spell to complete his five-for.
“When you’re taking wickets, it’s tough to get the ball out of your hand. He was in a bit of a rhythm. He had the 40-minute break after lunch, but came out and bowled another few overs. It worked for him that we were bowled out, but if we could have batted a bit longer and asked him to come back and come back, then that might have tested him, but full credit to him. He bowled exceptionally in that first hour.”