WELLINGTON: Aggressive double centuries for Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls fueled New Zealand’s dominance in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Wellington on Saturday.
The Black Caps declared their first innings with a commanding 580-4 before reducing Sri Lanka to 26-2 at stumps on the second day, leaving the tourists with very little prospect of leveling the two-match series.
The in-form Williamson scored 215 and Nicholls posted a career-best 200 not out, with the pair’s third stand of 363 virtually batting Sri Lanka out of the contest.
Their partnership was the fifth highest by any New Zealand combination and they became the country’s first batsmen to reach 200 in the same innings.
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne resumes on Sunday 16 and nightwatchman Prabath Jayasuriya remains on four, with a daunting 554-run deficit.
Sri Lanka’s bowlers struggled to generate life on a flat basin reserve pitch, forcing Karunaratne to set defensive fields for much of the mammoth partnership.
Conway bats on 78 as New Zealand face Sri Lanka on the opening day
Williamson and Nicholls batted at a lively clip from the outset, racing ahead from an overnight score of 155-2 and barely looking troubled as they unleashed a flurry of attacking blows in the first two overs sessions
Williamson was impenetrable as he reached three figures for the third time in successive Tests, becoming the first New Zealander to surpass 8,000 runs in the process.
It was a sixth double century for the 32-year-old, whose unbeaten 121 was instrumental in a first-ball first Test in Christchurch earlier this week.
Having restarted on 26, Williamson hit 23 fours and two sixes before laying on deep spinner Jayasuriya as he tried to increase the scoring rate.
Nicholls moved from his 18 to reach three figures before surpassing his previous best score of 174.
His aggressive 240-ball knock, which featured four sixes, represented a remarkable return to form for the left-hander, whose place in the team was under pressure after failing to reach 40 in his 15 previous entries
Nicholls said he was aware of the ongoing criticism of his selection, but said he was comfortable with the support of his teammates and manager Gary Stead.
“The whole group has been great and you really feel that support,” he said.
“For me, it was just about trusting that I’ve done it before. It hasn’t happened as much as I’d like in the last period.
“Now the challenge is to do it again knowing that the project is there.”
“I lost our longs”
Nicholls compared the partnership to a stand of 369 with Williamson against Pakistan in Christchurch two years ago.
“The way Kane is playing, he’s in a real zone. It was nice to turn that partnership into a really big one.”
Kasun Rajitha, who was sidelined for a spell with a shoulder injury, posted top bowling figures of 2-126.
Sri Lankan spinner Dhananjaya de Silva said the tourists were guilty of giving the double centurions too much room to manoeuvre.
“Obviously Kane and Henry batted really well. We have to be at our best when we face these players but we wasted our time,” he said.
De Silva said Sri Lanka had not given up on leveling the series, although he acknowledged that it will be very difficult to force a win.
“We don’t play to draw, we play to win.
“So we have to fight for at least a day and a half. We’ll see what happens,” he said.
His answer got off to a bad start.
Matt Henry removed opener Oshada Fernando for six before fellow seamer Doug Bracewell dismissed Kusal Mendis not out via a spectacular catch at point off Devon Conway.
It came from the third ball of the match from Bracewell in what is his first Test appearance for more than six years.