Monday, 23 September 2019

Boult, Southee send Sri Lanka tumbling

© AFP

COLOMBO: Two double-wicket maidens by New Zealand’s seam-bowling duo of Trent Boult and Tim Southee headlined an opening session that left Sri Lanka struggling on the second day of the second Test, but the rains that have plagued this match from the start came down at the lunch break and didn’t let up, so there was no play possible for the rest of the day.

In the morning, Sri Lanka had resumed on a fairly steady 85 for 2 after overnight rains delayed the scheduled start by 45 minutes, and with captain Dimuth Karunaratne gliding a single to third man to bring up a 23rd Test half-century early on, they looked in good shape. Then Boult struck. In his third over of the day, Boult had Angelo Mathews as Victim No. 250 in Test cricket, caught down the legside trying to pull a short ball that didn’t come on as quickly as the batsman had expected. Four balls later, Boult got one to jag back in from a length to Kusal Perera, who completely misread which the movement. He shouldered arms as the ball thudded into his pads. Not offering a shot and with the ball hitting him right in front, he wisely opted not to take a review and walked off.

From a steady 93 for 2, Sri Lanka were a wobbly 93 for 4, with only Karunaratne’s continued presence at the crease offering some succour. The captain built a steady stand with a skittish Dhananjaya de Silva, who was fortunate to survive when he lobbed a leading edge off Boult before he was into double figures. Boult, whose ever-growing gallery of breath-taking catches on the boundary often sends social media into a tizzy, saw an absolute dolly pop in and out of his hands. Dhananjaya continued to live dangerously, with the ball not always meeting the middle of the bat and one inside edge whizzing past the stumps to the boundary. But, crucially for Sri Lanka, he survived.

Karunaratne’s solidity at the other end meant Sri Lanka looked like they were climbing out of the hole Boult had dug for them, only for Southee to push them right back in. Southee kept angling the ball across the left-handed Karunaratne, varying his movement and lines subtly. Dragged across by Southee’s lines until one was pitched on the perfect length, he was tempted into the drive, and edged into BJ Watling’s gloves. Three balls later, a leaden-footed Niroshan Dickwella was caught on the crease as another edge went to Watling, and Sri Lanka were in fresh trouble. Dhananjaya held on, while Dilruwan Perera copped a blow on the glove of his bowling hand which needed treatment, potentially a cause for worry for the home side.

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