Atapattu, Jayawardene hit centuries

Associated Press

Napier, April 6:

Sri Lanka captain Marvan Atapattu surpassed 5,000 Test runs and completed a set of centuries against all Test nations on Wednesday as the first Test against New Zealand headed toward a draw. Atapattu’s 16th Test century was his first against New Zealand and gave him centuries against the nine Test-playing sides.

He went on to reach 127 in an innings lasting more than six hours to anchor his team to 351 for three at stumps on the third day in reply to New Zealand’s first innings of 561. Sri Lanka is 210 runs behind and only 11 from avoiding the follow-on.

Atapattu’s knock made him the fourth Sri Lankan to pass 5,000 Test runs. He joins Sanath Jayasuriya, who was out for 48 earlier in the day, Aravinda da Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga.

Atapattu’s Test career started badly — a pair of ducks on debut at age 20 against India and 0 and 1 against Australia in Colombo before another pair against India in Ahmedabad.

Mahela Jayawardene, who added 184 with Atapattu in a Sri Lankan record third wicket partnership against New Zealand, was still at the crease, 118 not out, when bad light ended play 13 minutes early. Thilan Samaraweera was with him on 34 not out.

Atapattu’s 95-run opening partnership with Jayasuriya gave the innings a firm footing, but it was his stand with Jayawardene, which straddled three sessions, that made the match safe for Sri Lanka. Atapattu assembled his 16th Test century in four hours, 15 minutes, from 196 balls and with 17 fours. Jayawardene went on later to his 13th century in Tests in three hours, 44 minutes, from 157 balls with 14 fours.

Atapattu and Jayawardene used their excellent footwork to score a majority of their runs with firm drives through the covers. They were also able to step across their wicket and turn full-pitched deliveries on off-stump through the sparsely guarded leg side.

New Zealand had a faint chance to gain an advantage in the match when Chris Martin claimed two wickets in the morning session. The tall, lean right-armer trapped Jayasuriya lbw for 48 and bowled Kumar Sangakkara off an inside edge for five.

Sri Lanka was 101-2, but Atapattu steadied them and it was more than three hours before another wicket fell.

Atapattu and Jaywardene dominated the middle session, putting on 133 runs in 121 minutes at a rate of 4.43 runs per over, and pushing the match towards a stalemate.

At the end of the third day more than 900 runs had been scored and only 13 wickets had fallen in nine sessions.