NZ to chase 257 on final day of 1st test vs. Sri Lanka

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Ageless Angelo Mathews ground out a determined century to steady Sri Lanka, then put it back into a competitive position in a closely-fought match Sunday on the fourth day of the first test against New Zealand.

At 35 and in his 101st test, Mathews produced his 14th century and one of his best. He was at the crease when play began, 20 not out overnight, and was finally out after tea for 115 with Sri Lanka 242 runs in front after trailing by 18 on the first innings.

Sri Lanka eventually was all out for 302, a lead of 284. At stumps, after 17 overs, New Zealand was 28-1, still 256 behind, and the test is set for a thrilling final day. If New Zealand reaches its target, it will be its third-highest successful run chase in tests.

If Sri Lanka wins, it will be only for the third time in New Zealand and it will keep alive its chances of reaching the final of the World Test Championship.

Sri Lanka improved its chances of winning the match and leading the two-match series when it dismissed Devon Conway for 1 in the fifth over. Conway played defensively but with an unusally full follow-through at a ball from Kasun Rajitha which held up at little. The ball flew back to the bowler who took a two-handed catch above his head.

On a day of undulating fortunes when both teams at times felt in charge, Mathews was the most influential figure.

Sri Lanka began the day at 83-3, effectively 65-3 because of New Zealand’s narrow first innings lead. The wicket of nightwatchman Prabath Jayusuriya was the only one to fall in a slow morning session after which Mathews was 54 and Sri Lanka was 150-4, leading by 132.

At that point the game was finely balanced. If the New Zealand could make further inroads into the Sri Lanka innings, especially with the second new ball, the match might have tipped entirely in favor of the home team.

But Mathews became the face of Sri Lanka’s resistance, batting on through the first two sessions, even when the ball was bouncing and moving. He picked his shots carefully to minimize risk and built his century in just under 5-1/2 hours from 235 balls with 11 fours.

Mathews had support throughout the day from Dinesh Chandimal who made 42 in a 105-run partnership for the fifth wicket and Dhananjaya de Silva who made an unbeaten 47 batting at No. 7.

New Zealand was a bowler short throughout the fourth day because Neil Wagner has back and hamstring injuries and couldn’t bowl. The bowlers had to work hard but were rewarded by pace and bounce on a Hagley Oval pitch which will still be competitive for batters and bowlers on the last day.

Blair Tickner took four wickets, Matt Henry three and Tim Southee two as the New Zealand seamers worked hard to make up for Wagner’s absence. Daryl Mitchell also bowled 12 overs to play his part.

“I’m a bit sore and tired. We worked hard to bowl them out and we’re going to push for the win tomorrow,” Tickner said. “It was an overall great performance by the bowling team.”


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