Sri Lanka rebuild after Southee’s triple strike

Publish: 1:14 PM, December 15, 2018 | Update: 1:14:PM, December 15, 2018

WELLINGTON  – New Zealand’s Tim Southee tore through Sri Lanka’s top order in a devastating opening spell before veterans Dimuth Karunaratne and Angelo Mathews steadied the tourists’ innings on day one of the first Test in Wellington Saturday.

Southee claimed three wickets in his first two overs as the Black Caps’ decision to bowl on a green Basin Reserve wicket after winning the toss paid immediate dividends.

Sri Lanka were reeling at three for nine before Karunaratne and Mathews’ rescue mission sent them into lunch at 73 for three.

Mathews was on 30, and Karunaratne on 36 after being given a life on 33 when Neil Wagner had him caught at mid-wicket, only to have the delivery ruled a no-ball due to a foot fault.

Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal said before the match that he wanted his top order to survive the first hour and see off the new ball but the wickets began to tumble in just the second over.

Danushka Gunathilaka was Southee’s first victim, out lbw for one after failing to deal with a late inswinger.

Dhananjaya de Silva then edged through to the keeper for the same score and a clearly rattled Kusal Mendis only managed to reach two before hitting a simple catch to Ajaz Patel at mid-wicket.

Southee ended the session with three for 19, following up his triple strike with some economical bowling.

However, with the pitch appearing to settle, the New Zealanders will be keen to break the Karunaratne-Mathews partnership early in the second session and expose a long Sri Lankan tail.

Sri Lanka, ranked sixth in the world, have lost their last five Tests against New Zealand and suffered a 3-0 Test series whitewash against England last month.

They have faced upheaval in their coaching and selection ranks in recent weeks and arrived in New Zealand low on confidence.

In contrast, the fourth-ranked Black Caps enter the two-match contest buoyed by their first away Test series win over Pakistan in 49 years last week.