New Zealand build lead after Latham’s marathon


Tom Latham carried on from where he had left off, swelling his overnight 111 to a substantial 154, as New Zealand built a lead over Sri Lanka on a rain-affected fourth day. At tea, the visiting side were 295 for 5, having added 99 runs in a 30-over session to take the lead to 51 runs, reports Cricinfo.

Having lost the first Test, New Zealand needed to make the running in the second and final game. They were thwarted by rain, which has affected play on all days and had washed out the morning session on the fourth day.

Play eventually began with the umpires deciding that there could be 57 overs bowled in the day once the rain had relented.

Latham and BJ Watling, the overnight batsmen, didn't play in a slam-bang fashion, making it clear that New Zealand weren't looking for a 'hit out and declare quickly' approach. Although rain has meant that only a little over two days' worth of play has taken place, New Zealand seemed to calculate that putting on a big first-innings score and having a crack at Sri Lanka last on the final day was a more viable option.

Consequently, although Latham and Watling were alert to getting runs off the bad balls, they didn't force the issue. There was some aggression against Lahiru Kumara in the 69th over which yielded 12 runs, but Latham also had a narrow break in that over. Having just picked off a boundary to fine leg, he slashed hard at the next ball which took the edge and flew over the slips for another boundary. Had Angelo Mathews, at second slip, reacted quicker though and risen up in time, the ball would have been at catchable height for him.

Mathews also captained Sri Lanka in the field, with Dimuth Karunaratne not having stepped out due to a small tear in his quadriceps, picked up while fielding on Saturday. As a result, Karunaratne will also not be able to bat higher than No.7.

Latham and Watling marched forward inexorably until Dilruwan Perera bowled a quicker one that skid on and rapped Latham on the pads. Even a review couldn't save him, with three reds meaning the on-field decision was upheld and he had to be on his way, ending a stand of 143.

Colin de Grandhomme came out and biffed some blows, as New Zealand continued to make it a productive session. With Latham gone though, there might be a switch in tactics towards a greater focus on getting runs quicker for New Zealand in the final session. Watling was still there, on a composed 62, to continue to offer the hope of stretching the lead into a more substantial one.

However, with time running out in the Test and the weather still uncertain, there is still a high likelihood that this match could end in a draw, which will break a sequence of 25 consecutive Tests in Sri Lanka that ended with an outright winner.