GALLE: Ross Taylor hit an unbeaten half-century to keep New Zealand afloat after Sri Lanka spinner Akila Dananjaya claimed five wickets on a rain-hit day one of the first Test here on Wednesday.
New Zealand were 203 for five, having recovered from 71-3 at lunch, when rain stopped play for the day in the final session with Taylor batting on 86.
Dananjaya claimed his fourth five-wicket haul, bowling with a remodelled action after being reported for a suspect action last year. The mystery spinner took three early wickets including skipper Kane Williamson for nought before Taylor put on 100 runs for the fourth wicket with Henry Nicholls.
Dananjaya, who was overlooked for Tests in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, trapped Nicholls for 42 to break the century stand and then got B.J. Watling for one to make New Zealand slip further.
“There’s no drastic change to my action. I needed to change a few things and with the help of spin bowling coach Piyal Wijetunga, I did the necessary changes,” Dananjaya told reporters. “I used to send videos to him to get more feedback and really happy with my action now.”
Taylor handled pace and spin with aplomb as he registered his 31st Test 50 and had no problems resisting Dananjaya, who mixed up his deliveries to outfox the batsmen.
Taylor registered the highest score by a Kiwi batsman in a Test match at Galle, surpassing the 69 by Tim McIntosh. New Zealand have struggled at this venue having lost all three previous Tests.
“They were tough at times. The ball certainly spun a little earlier than we thought, but we expected it to be turning,” Nicholls said of the Galle wicket. “If we can get some partnerships first through Mitch and Ross but also through the lower order with the tail — all those innings are going to be valuable when the wicket does get tougher to bat on.”
Earlier, openers Jeet Raval and Tom Latham put on 64 runs before Dananjaya struck on a pitch that is already offering big turn.
Latham was the first to go after being caught behind for 30 as Dananjaya got the left-handed batsman to poke at a delivery that was turning away.
Williamson fell three balls later when he flicked one straight into the hands of his opposite number Dimuth Karunaratne at short mid-wicket.
In the last over before lunch, Raval failed to pick a googly and was caught at first slip by Dhananjaya de Silva for 33.
Both Sri Lanka and New Zealand are playing their first match of the World Test Championship, which has nine top teams competing for supremacy in the five-day format.
Play was stopped at 3:42 pm (1012 GMT) due to rain and half an hour later was called off with 22 overs lost in the day. Play will resume early on Thursday.
J. Raval c De Silva b Dananjaya 33
T. Latham c Dickwella b Dananjaya 30
K. Williamson c Karunaratne b Dananjaya 0
R. Taylor not out 86
H. Nicholls lbw b Dananjaya 42
B.J. Watling lbw b Dananjaya 1
M. Santner not out 8
EXTRAS (NB-1, LB-2) 3
TOTAL (for five wkts, 68 overs) 203
FALL OF WKTS: 1-64, 2-64, 3-71, 4-171, 5-179
STILL TO BAT: T. Southee, T. Boult, W. Somerville, A. Patel
BOWLING (to-date): Lakmal 10-5-14-0 (1nb); Kumara 10-1-37-0; Dananjaya 22-2-57-5; De Silva 6-0-20-0; Embuldeniya 20-1-73-0
SRI LANKA: Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhananjaya de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lahiru Kumara and Suranga Lakmal
UMPIRES: Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth (both England)
TV UMPIRE: Bruce Oxenford (Australia)
MATCH REFEREE:Andy Pycroft (Zimbabwe)
Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2019