StumpsNew Zealand 155 for 2 (Conway 78, Williamson 26*, Nicholls 8*, de Silva 1-18) vs Sri Lanka
In rain-impacted Wellington, with heavy winds for company, New Zealand batted just 48 overs as bad light brought about an early close to an already truncated opening day. Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls were unbeaten on 26 and 18 at the close respectively, though it was when Devon Conway was at the crease during his 108-ball 78 that New Zealand had looked the most threatening.
Sri Lanka’s seamers, whose eyes might have lit up at the opportunity to bowl first on a supremely green top after Dimuth Karunaratne won the toss, unfortunately had to cope with some of the windiest conditions ever seen at Basin Reserve.
“Today was certainly the windiest I’ve played at the Basin. Certainly a lot of challenge for the bowlers, and we wanted to make the most of that and put pressure on them,” Conway said after the end of play. Put pressure New Zealand certainly did.
While there was certainly extra bounce in the surface – Conway would describe it as “tennis-ball bounce” – the gusty winds meant the likes of Kasun Rajitha, Asitha Fernando and Lahiru Kumara were unable to gain the same sort of lateral movement they had so effectively utilised in Christchurch, while maintaining good lengths were also proving difficult.
Conway and his more watchful opening partner Tom Latham also proved adept at leaving the ball on length, meaning Sri Lanka’s seamers were forced to pitch it full if they wanted to force the batters into a stroke. It was here that Conway in particular flourished.
In a stand worth 87, it was Kumara that took the brunt of Conway’s aggression, with eight of his 13 boundaries coming against the strapping quick. Anything too short or wide was pulled and cut with ease, while anything overpitched was driven just as efficiently.
The first wicket came only once Latham looked to break free, pulling one straight down deep square-leg’s throat off Rajitha.
Conway, though, carried on in a similar vein, as Williamson took over the anchor role in a 31-run stand. With the seamers struggling to make a consistent impact, Sri Lanka were forced to turn to spin shortly before tea. And it was the continued use of Dhananjaya de Silva’s offbreaks that provided an unlikely breakthrough in the final session.
De Silva’s flatter trajectory from around the wicket slowed down Conway’s scoring, the left-hander scoring just three runs off the 16 deliveries he faced from de Silva. Eventually that pressure told, with Conway charging de Silva and only managing to chip a low return catch.
Sri Lanka might even have had three for the day had debutant Nishan Madushka – replacing Niroshan Dickwella with the gloves – held on to a thick edge off Nicholls. It was quick and low to his left – almost a mirror image of the chance Dickwella had grassed off Williamson in Christchurch – but one Madushka ought to have held on to. Madushka has been brought into the side mainly on the back of his batting ability, and the pressure will certainly be on going forward.
Williamson and Nicholls played through the rest of the session on pure merit until bad light meant play was stopped 45 minutes prior to the scheduled close.