Sri Lanka turn the screws on New Zealand

COLOMBO: Skipper Kumar Sangakkara hit a second successive half-century as Sri Lanka seized control of the final cricket Test against New Zealand here on Friday.

The hosts, who led by 182 runs in the first innings, were 157-2 in their second knock when heavy rain ended play 12.4 overs early on the third day at the Sinhalese Sports Club.

Sangakkara followed his 50 in the first innings with a fluent unbeaten 64, having shared an unbroken third-wicket stand of 68 with former captain Mahela Jayawardene (23 not out).

Sri Lanka will resume on the fourth day with an overall lead of 339 runs with eight wickets in hand, looking for quick runs before giving their bowlers enough time to dismiss New Zealand a second time.

Sri Lanka won the first Test in Galle by 202 runs last week and a 2-0 sweep of the series will make them number two in the official Test rankings behind South Africa.

Sangakkara's men currently share the second spot with India.

Openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Tharanga Paranavitana gave Sri Lanka a flying start with a stand of 56 runs.

Dilshan, hero of the first Test win with knocks of 92 and 123 not out, made 33 before holing out in the deep off Jeetan Patel.

Paranavitana fell in the penultimate over before tea, caught down the leg-side by wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum off Daniel Vettori for 34.

Sangakkara hit seven fours and a six despite a defensive leg-side field set by Vettori to contain the runs.

Earlier, Sri Lanka spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Rangana Herath shared six wickets as New Zealand were bowled out for 234 in their first innings in reply to Sri Lanka's 416.

Off-spinner Muralitharan, the world's most successful bowler, finished with three for 71 runs to take his record tally to 780 wickets.

Left-arm spinner Herath chipped in with three for 70, while seamer Thilan Thushara claimed two for 37.

New Zealand added 24 runs to their overnight score of 159-5 when the overnight pair of Ross Taylor and McCullum were dismissed in successive overs.

McCullum, who made 18, edged Muralitharan to the slip region where Mahela Jayawardene picked up his 150th Test catch.

Taylor, who survived at least three close appeals for leg-before during his knock of 81, was finally removed by Herath to a catch by wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene.

Vettori and Jacob Oram added 43 for the eighth wicket to save their team from the follow-on when off-spinner Dilshan, replacing Muralitharan, struck with the fourth delivery.

Vettori, on 23, played tentatively forward and the ball went off the bat and pad to forward short-leg, where Chamara Kapugedera took the low catch at the second attempt.

Oram went soon after for 24 when he top-edged an ambitions reverse sweep off Herath for Kapugedera to take his second catch in the innings.

Muralitharan ended the innings by trapping Iain O'Brien leg-before for four.