Dananjaya's five-fer negates fifties from Taylor, Nicholls
Sri Lanka's bowler Akila Dananjaya (second left) celebrates taking the wicket of New Zealand's Kane Williamson (not in picture) on a rain-hit day one of the first Test in Galle on Wednesday.
In what has turned out to be a gripping Test, with its fair share of twists and turns, Ross Taylor (70*) compiled a crucial unbeaten hand as Sri Lanka and New Zealand shared the honours at stumps on Day 1 of the Galle Test. Akila Dananjaya starred for Sri Lanka by picking up all the five wickets to fall, as the visitors ended the day at 203 for 5.
New Zealand began the final session at 179 for 5, with Taylor continuing to disrupt Lasith Embuldeniya by cracking the sweep stroke. The left-arm spinner had a poor day, finishing with figures of 0 for 73. Unfortunately, only about eight overs were bowled in the final session as heavy rain curtailed most of the post-Tea session.
In the second session, Taylor and Dananjaya and Co. were involved in an engrossing battle. Taylor mostly took the aggressive approach after the break and employed his tried and tested sweep alongside the loft and the short-arm pull to put Sri Lanka under pressure.
Taylor's enterprise with the willow set the tone for New Zealand. Nicholls also employed the conventional sweep to good effect to keep the scorecard ticking over. Taylor soon reached his fifty with single off Lahiru Kumara. Just when it seemed as if New Zealand would end up without losing a wicket in the session, Dananjaya again turned out to be Sri Lanka's go-to-man, as the spinner trapped Nicholls in front. The southpaw took the review but to no avail.
The key to the dismissal was Dananjaya shortening his length a tad, making it harder for Nicholls to get on top of the ball. The spinner then bagged his fifth scalp by winning an LBW decision against BJ Watling. In fact, for the most part of the session, Sri Lanka's spinners were perhaps guilty of bowling too full, allowing the duo of Taylor and Nicholls to sweep. The hosts also had the chance to run out Taylor, but Dimuth Karunaratne, the captain, couldn't fire in a good throw at the striker's end.
Earlier, after New Zealand had opted to bat, the tourists made a steady start. The opening pair of Jeet Raval (33) and Tom Latham (30) largely looked to play out the pace pair of Lahiru Kumara and Suranga Lakmal. Dananjaya, who was introduced in the ninth over, immediately extracted grip and found turn to beat the edges of both Raval and Latham. However, the opening duo played late and looked to deal the Sri Lankan mainstay in a diet of singles. The pair also showcased nimble footwork by using the crease to cut, sweep and loft.
At 63 for no loss after 26 overs, the openers seemed to have taken New Zealand to safer waters. But, with a few minutes to go for the break, Dananjaya dismissed Latham as the southpaw got into two minds and edged one behind. Kane Williamson, the skipper, didn't last long as he nudged one straight to the fielder at short midwicket in the same over. To make matters worse, Raval too succumbed to Dananjaya's googly and nicked one to the slip fielder.
Brief scores: New Zealand 203/5 (Ross Taylor 86*, Henry Nicholls 42; Akila Dananjaya 5-57) v Sri Lanka