Rapid-fire Mendis puts Sri Lanka in control against New Zealand

CHRISTCHURCH: Kusal Mendis made a lively 87 off 83 balls to put tourists Sri Lanka in the driving seat at 305-6 after the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand on Thursday.

Black Caps captain Tim Southee won the toss in Christchurch, where conditions were ripe for his attack to strike, but instead it was Sri Lanka’s band of classy batsmen who dominated.

Batting first on a green wicket, Sri Lanka quickly lost opener Oshada Fernando for 13.

It was heavily overcast, and the ground floodlights were on, but despite the early wicket, Sri Lanka’s second-wicket pair of Dimuth Karunaratne and Mendis were unfazed.

They cracked a rollicking 137 in 27 overs, with Mendis belting 16 boundaries while Karunaratne contributed 50 off 87.

When they fell in quick succession, Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal put on 82 for the fourth wicket to lift Sri Lanka to 233-4.

When conditions were at their peak for fast bowlers, Mendis and Karunaratne raced along at nearly five an over to reach 120-1, assisted by several inside edges and top edges to the boundary.

Mendis rode his luck to reach his 16th Test fifty off just 40 balls.

He was looking for his eighth Test century and the score had reached 151 when he was trapped in front by Southee for 87 to end a sparkling innings.

In the following over, with no addition to the total, Karunaratne followed, caught at second slip for 50 by Tom Latham to give Matt Henry his first wicket.

Niroshan Dickwella went cheaply for seven before Dhananjaya de Silva and Kasun Rajitha regained momentum for Sri Lanka with an unbeaten 35-run partnership.

At stumps de Silva was on 39 with Rajitha on 16.

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