Sri Lanka ‘s middle order dug in as they tried to avoid an innings defeat to New Zealand in the first Test in Wellington on Tuesday, with Kusal Mendis making a half century.
The tourists survived the first session of day three without loss and went to lunch at 122 for three, still needing 174 runs to make New Zealand bat again.
Mendis and Angelo Mathews combined for an unbeaten 109-run partnership as they embarked on an unlikely rescue mission after Sri Lanka’s top order collapsed for the second time in the match late Monday.
Mendis was on 65 not out at the break after scoring his eighth Test half century and Mathews was undefeated on 35.
Sri Lanka bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake said before play commenced that his side needed to approach the final two days session-by-session and try to chip away at New Zealand’s lead.
Mendis, who made only two in the first innings, took a more positive approach and went after short-ball specialist Neil Wagner.
He blasted four boundaries off Wagner in an entertaining period that saw the paceman concede 35 runs in four overs before being yanked from the attack.
Sri Lanka have won only one Test match in Wellington in five attempts and were left chasing the game Tuesday after New Zealand opener Tom Latham’s unbeaten 264 lifted the hosts to a first innings total of 578.
Sri Lanka, ranked sixth in the world, have lost their last five Tests against New Zealand and suffered a 3-0 Test series whitewash against England last month.
They have faced upheaval in their coaching and selection ranks in recent weeks and arrived in New Zealand low on confidence.
In contrast, the fourth-ranked Black Caps entered the two-match contest buoyed by their first away Test series win over Pakistan in 49 years.
The New Zealanders are looking for a fourth straight Test series win after also defeating England and the West Indies in the past 12 months.