Cricket: Southee at last hitting his straps

Tim Southee's continued good form is a positive sign for a struggling New Zealand team which is in need of a few consistent performers.

The seamer took another two wickets in the first session on day three of New Zealand's second test against Sri Lanka in Colombo last night, which gave him four for the innings.

Sri Lanka went to tea at 177 for six, still 235 runs behind on the first innings, after New Zealand made 412 in its first dig.

Since Southee's debut for the national side as a 19-year-old in 2008 he has struggled for continued success and has been in and out of the side across the varying forms of the game.

His career numbers have never quite been world-class, but in recent times he has looked a more complete bowler and has the ability to swing the ball.

He took four wickets in the first innings of the first test last week and had he been fit enough to bowl during Sri Lanka's short run chase to wrap up the test he may have been able to provide it with a scare with an early wicket or two.

As New Zealand looks ahead to its upcoming tour to South Africa, Southee's ability to bowl decent spells will provide direction to a side which has a wildly inconsistent batting line-up.

During the middle session of day three, Sri Lankan batsmen Thilan Samaraweera and Suraj Randiv looked to stop New Zealand's momentum as they dug their feet in.

At tea, Samaraweera had 48 next to his name, while Randiv had laboured his way to 14.

Off-spinner Jeetan Patel took New Zealand's only wicket of the stanza when he had Prasanna Jayawardene caught by Kane Williamson for 12.

Earlier, the home side began day three at 43 for three in reply to New Zealand's first-innings total of 412 and edged past 100 before Southee struck twice in quick time.

Southee dislodged opener Tharanga Paranavitana for 40 when he was caught behind by Kruger van Wyk. Angelo Mathews was next to go for 47 as Martin Guptill produced a stunning one-handed catch in the slips to give Southee his fourth scalp of the innings.

Patel looked to have Jayawardene stumped following some sharp work from van Wyk, but despite countless replays the third umpire could not see enough evidence to send the Sri Lanka No 7 on his way and he was given not out.

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