Another day of tremendous Test cricket in New Zealand went by almost unwatched today, although to be fair, Christchurch’s weather forecast was predicting rain, hail, the doom of the world and the like. As it turned out, the day was fine and the cricket was even better.
New Zealand started the day looking to overtake Sri Lanka’s modest first innings of 154, and made serene progress untill Sri Lanka’s bowlers engineered a collapse, slumping from 2 for 106 to 6 for 113. I sure hope some English players were watching as Daniel Vettori and Stephen Fleming then applied a bandage to the innings and displayed a masterclass of damage control.
Fleming was slow, slow but sure, and put away the rare loose balls that Murali provided, while Vettori was his usual scratchy but inventive self. It of course helped that these two possess some real cricket nous. And they were right up against it because not only was Murali bowling with his usual menace, but Lasith Malinga was bowling with fire and aggression. After the lunch break, he gave Fleming one of the more searching examinations of his technique that I have seen for a while. It was great to watch.
Once Sri Lanka had finally winkled out Fleming, Vettori changed his role to that of a random hitter, and brought up a well deserved half-century.
But New Zealand’s lead was only 52 and that didn’t look like enough as Sri Lanka made steady progress to 44 for 1. Then that man again, Shane Bond, stepped up, and ripped out the Sri Lankan middle order. They lost four wickets for two runs at one stage. As it stands now, Sri Lanka hang by a thread at 8 for 125, with only Kumar Sangakkara holding things together.
Test cricket is so much better to watch when the conditions favour the bowlers rather then the batsmen.