Mitchell Tonne gives NZ first-innings lead over Sri Lanka

Daryl Mitchell tied the rear with an excellent Century and Matt Henry blew 72 balls out of 75 as New Zealand held an unlikely first innings lead over Sri Lanka in the opening Test.

Led by Mitchell and Henry and with the help of the inimitable Neil Wagner (27), New Zealand fought to an 18 lead.

At stumps, Sri Lanka was 3-83 in the second innings, a 65 lead with Angelo Mathews 20 not missing.

New Zealand started the day 5-162 and 193 runs behind, with Mitchell left on 40 to do his best with the tailenders.

At Hagley Park it was unlikely that New Zealand would be able to make up more than part of the deficit after Sri Lanka’s exceptional first innings of 355.

Mitchell’s overnight partner Michael Bracewell fell at the end of a quiet first hour but captain Tim Southee indicated he was ready to wag his tail as he hit 25 balls from 20 despite New Zealand falling 120 behind as he fell against Kasun Rajitha.

Mitchell continued to play the reassuring hand with half a century in three hours and a ton – his fifth and his first against Sri Lanka – of 187 balls.

“It’s always nice to get a hundred for your country, and it was cool to do it in a situation where we needed it,” Mitchell said.

“It was nice to get a team result on the board and it was great for the lads to bowl like they did tonight.”

Mitchell’s solidity allowed other New Zealanders to strike and Henry took advantage. After a quiet start, he went on the offensive and hit 72 of 75 balls.

No. 9 Matt Henry batted 72 of 75 // Getty
No. 9 Matt Henry batted 72 of 75 // Getty

Henry shot 10 fours and three sixes and after Mitchell was knocked out for 102, Wagner joined and laced up three more sixes.

The gap narrowed with every powerful shot: Henry and Wagner hit three sixes and one four on four balls at the end of the 102nd over and at the beginning of the 103rd.

The gap – which had previously been 54 – dropped to 32 with those shots.

In the 105th over, Henry hit 4, 4, 4, 6 and 4 from the bowling of Rajitha and New Zealand hit the front.

Henry was eventually out, bowled by Asitha Fernando after playing a big role for a New Zealand team that never seem to know when they’re beaten.

Their extraordinary one-run win over England in their previous Test was the ultimate demonstration, but again, the Black Caps appeared to be behind with little chance of more than a significant first-inning deficit.

Sri Lanka lost three wickets, all to Blair Tickner (3-28), ahead of stumps: Oshada Fernando (28), Dimuth Karunaratne (17) and Kusal Mendis (14). Mitchell Tonne gives NZ first-innings lead over Sri Lanka

Russell Falcon

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