Wed, 11 Dec 2019

Watling, Somerville set Sri Lanka 268

ESPN
17 Aug 2019, 18:52 GMT+10

Lunch Sri Lanka 267 and 0 for no loss need 268 runs to beat New Zealand 249 and 285 (Watling 77, Latham 45, Somerville 40, Embuldeniya 4-99)

At the end of day three, with New Zealand's lead at 177 with three wickets in hand, Tom Latham declared at the post-match press conference that the visitors would be happy setting any total above 200. However, a dogged batting effort on the fourth morning from their lower-order batsmen ensured New Zealand went well past that mark, setting Sri Lanka a tricky target of 268 runs to win the first Test.

It's a tricky target because the highest successful fourth-innings total at Galle is 99. But when Sri Lanka's batsmen walk out, they will do well to repeat the efforts of the New Zealand trio of BJ Watling, William Somerville and Trent Boult before lunch.

Watling and Somerville frustrated Sri Lanka when the day began, following a 35-minute delay due to rain. Starting the day on 195 for 7, they were unperturbed with the Sri Lanka pacers who were bowling with the old ball, so it wasn't long before Dimuth Karunaratne opted for the new one. That worked in New Zealand's favour as runs started to follow, with Watling steadily beginning to give Somerville more strike.

Somerville repaid the faith Watling showed, by picking the gaps off bad deliveries and bunting the good ones, successfully negating the spin threat that Lasith Embuldeniya and Akila Dananjaya brought on a turning surface. Watling found the occasional boundary off the pace bowlers, using his back-foot particularly well to punch balls that weren't short enough. While facing spin, he showed the skills necessary to succeed in Asia, using his feet to mess with the bowler's length.

That's not to say Sri Lanka's bowlers weren't up to the mark. Suranga Lakmal found the length ball to seam the ball in, and it whizzed past batsmen's outside edge on a couple of occasions. Elbudeniya and Dananjaya had a few close lbw shouts too, but it was Lahiru Kumara who finally broke the 46-run stand that seemed to have taken the game away from Sri Lanka. He found a length ball that jagged away after hitting the deck, and it found Watling's outside edge. His crucial 77, though, had taken New Zealand's lead past 200.

Boult then joined Somerville, and a period of entertaining cricket ensued. Boult pirouetted around the crease to nudge short balls away for four or danced down the track to swipe them over midwicket, forcing Sri Lanka to go defensive. The big gaps then meant Somerville comfortably went into his thirties by picking the ones and twos, while Boult kept the hosts on their toes. When Boult finally fell, trying to ramp a six over third man, the duo had added a further 36 runs. It was an innings that Ramiz Raja described like watching "Charlie Chaplin with the bat."

By then, though, Somerville had gone past his highest first-class score and in No. 11 Ajaz Patel's company began to farm the strike. But that wasn't particularly needed as Patel nudged the spinners around for singles before crunching a slog-sweep off Dhananjaya de Silva for four. Patel, however, was soon out lbw trying to defend de Silva, leaving Somerville ten short of a maiden Test fifty. That brought in lunch, in a session where New Zealand's last three wickets added 90 valuable runs.

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