Christchurch, March 12 (IANS) Veteran all-rounder Angelo Mathews’ 14th Test century has opened the door for Sri Lanka to claim a spot in the World Test Championship final, helping the visitors set a target of 285 for New Zealand at the end of day fours play at Hagley Oval.
Matthews slammed 115 and was involved in stands of 105 and 60 with Dinesh Chandimal (42) and Dhananjaya de Silva (47 not out) respectively to carry Sri Lanka to a second-innings total of 302.
At stumps, New Zealand reached 28/1 and need 257 runs more on an interesting Day 5 to complete the highest successful chase in Test cricket at Hagley Oval, beating Australia’s 201/3 in February 2016.
Despite a nervous half-hour in the early nineties, Mathews moved to his century with boundaries off back-to-back deliveries, swatting Blair Tickner through mid-wicket before booming a shot through covers off the back foot in a gritty knock which lasted 235 balls.
Sri Lanka began Day 4 by building a target-setting platform, adding 67 runs and only losing night-watchman Prabath Jayasuriya (6) in the morning session. Matthews and Chandimal worked into their partnership, facing 218 balls between them before the latter was bowled by a Tim Southee beauty after taking the new ball.
It brought de Silva to the crease, whose smart acceleration moved Sri Lanka’s lead past 250 in the evening session. His 47 not out included vital runs with the tail to move the team past 300, before Kasun Rajitha’s wicket of Devon Conway in the fifth over of New Zealand’s reply meant the tourists made evening inroads with the ball.
Fast bowler Blair Tickner picked 4-100 and had the best figures of a bowling attack missing Neil Wagner, who has been sidelined for at least six weeks due to torn right hamstring and bulging disc in his back.
Tom Latham (11 not out) and Kane Williamson (7 not out) will resume New Zealand’s chase on day five with the hosts needing a further 257 to win. A win would keep Sri Lanka’s hopes of a first World Test Championship final berth alive.
But they would also need a victory in the second Test of the series, to be held at Basin Reserve from Friday, and for Australia to prevent an India win in the ongoing final Test of their Border-Gavaskar Trophy series in Ahmedabad.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 355 and 302 in 105.3 overs (Angelo Mathews 115, Blair Tickner 4-100, Matt Henry 3-71) lead New Zealand 373 and 28/1 in 17 overs (Tom Latham 11 not out; Kasun Rajitha 1-5) by 257 runs