The Black Caps will take the field in Colombo this
afternoon with a golden chance to alleviate the hurt of the
last 10 months.
Only six wickets separate New Zealand from their first test
victory since January, a stretch that has culminated in five
With Sri Lanka requiring a further 316 runs for an unlikely
victory, the Black Caps are well and truly in the box seat
heading into the final day.
And coach Mike Hesson, looking for his first test win at the
helm of the national side, said his side were under no
illusions about the importance of securing the rare victory.
"Following the test in Galle, there was a lot of hurt," he
said. "Results don't lie - five (defeats) in a row is hard to
take. There's been a lot of hard work and a lot of individual
responsibility as well. We've had a number of guys stand up
during this test match."
Chief among them, once again, has been the young pace trio of
Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell, which has taken
13 of the 14 Sri Lankan wickets to fall.
After declaring their second innings closed on 194-9, setting
the hosts a chase of 363, New Zealand were handed a major
boost in the final session with Southee and Bracewell both
snaring two scalps.
The key wickets of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakarra and
Mahela Jayawardene were claimed as Southee and Bracewell
reduced the home side to 47-4 when bad light closed play.
With Southee (5-62) and Boult (4-42) finishing off Sri
Lanka's first effort with the bat earlier in the day, New
Zealand's chances of emerging triumphant appear to lie with
the continued success of their seamers.
"Our guys are tall and they present the seam very well," said
Hesson. "So, if it's going to swing, they're certainly
presenting the seam as well as you can. They're getting
anything and everything they can out of the wicket in these
The Black Caps' chances of success may have been less bright
if not for a fighting innings from captain Ross Taylor. With
wickets tumbling around him Taylor backed up his first
innings century with 74 invaluable runs, ensuring the batting
unit didn't cede the advantage.
Taylor put on 97 for the sixth wicket with debutant Todd
Astle (35), averting potential disaster after New Zealand
lost three wickets in four balls to slip to 75-5.
Hesson was happy with the batting effort which, despite
showing familiar signs of collapse, set Sri Lanka a record
fourth innings chase at Colombo.
"Following the batting performance in Galle, we stood up. A
number of times we were under pressure in the first innings -
and again in the second - and we didn't capitulate, so it was
good to see."
But even with a series-tying win within touching distance,
Hesson was wary about prematurely popping the champagne
"It's going to be hard work. We've got to turn up [today]
prepared to put in six-and-a-half hours of hard graft. We
know we're going to have to work for every one of those six
wickets and it could take us to [stumps]."