Kiwis save follow-on against Lankans
GALLE: Resolute batting by New Zealand's eighth-wicket pair of Jesse Ryder and Daniel Vettori denied Sri Lanka a follow-on in the first Test here on Thursday.
The duo, who came together with the Black Caps still needing 30 runs to avoid the follow-on in the rain-hit Test, put on a defiant stand of 36 after tea on the third day.
Ryder was dismissed for 42, but skipper Vettori returned unbeaten on 33 as New Zealand ended the day at 281-8, still 171 runs behind Sri Lanka's first innings total of 452.
Tailender Iain O'Brien was the other batsman at the crease on three.
Sri Lanka have two days, weather permitting, to force a win at the Galle International Stadium on a wearing wicket that has already started to assist the spinners.
Just 76 overs were bowled during the day after heavy rain delayed the start by 90 minutes and bad light ended play 20 minutes early.
The Black Caps, led by a gutsy 69 from left-handed opener Tim McIntosh, were sitting pretty at 180-3 when three wickets fell for 15 runs in the post-lunch session.
The collapse was triggered by two wickets from left-arm seamer Thilan Thushara, who had Ross Taylor caught behind for 35 and bowled Brendon McCullum for one off the inside edge.
Star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan had two lucky breaks when he earned a leg-before verdict against the sturdy McIntosh and had Jacob Oram caught off the pad at short-leg for 12.
Television replays showed Australian umpire Daryl Harper erred in both decisions.
The middle order collapse undid the good work of McIntosh, who had batted through the rain-affected morning session after resuming at his overnight score of 36.
The left-hander survived two blows on his helmet and shoulder by rising deliveries from Thushara, but hung on for six hours to anchor New Zealand's reply.
The 29-year-old Auckland batsman, who has a century to his credit in five previous Tests but had never played an international match outside New Zealand, hit six boundaries and a six.
Nightwatchman Jeetan Patel helped McIntosh put on 49 for the third wicket, himself contributing 26, before he was leg-before to Muralitharan 20 minutes before lunch.
Taylor added 51 runs for the fourth wicket when he edged a well-pitched delivery from Thushara to wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene.
Muralitharan, the most successful Test bowler in history, took his record tally to 773 with the wickets of McIntosh and Oram.
New Zealand play two Tests, two Twenty20 internationals and a limited-overs tri-series also featuring India during the five-week tour.
Sri Lanka 1st innings 452 M. Jayawardene 114, T. Samaraweera 159, D. Vettori 4-78
New Zealand 1st innings
T. McIntosh lbw b Muralitharan 69
M. Guptill b Thushara 24
D. Flynn b Mendis 14
J. Patel lbw b Muralitharan 26
R. Taylor c P. Jayawardene b Thushara 35
J. Ryder b Kulasekara 42
B. McCullum b Thushara 1
J. Oram c sub (Warnapura) b Muralitharan 12
D. Vettori not out 33
I. O'Brien not out 3
Extras b6, lb5, nb11 22
Total for 8 wkts 281
Fall of wkts 1-45, 2-80, 3-129, 4-180, 5-188, 6-195, 7-223, 8-259
Kulasekara 10-2-41-1 (nb1), Thushara 22-2-80-3 (nb6), Mendis 34-8-75-1 (nb4), Muralitharan 37-9-66-3, Paranavitana 2-0-8-0