Williamson and Nicholls’ double tons headline New Zealand’s domination
Henry, Doug Bracewell struck early as Sri Lanka face a stiff battle to save the game
Sri Lanka 26 for 2 (Karunaratne 16*, Jayasuriya 4*, Doug Bracewell 1-1, Henry 1-15) trail New Zealand 580 for 4 dec (Williamson 215, Nicholls 200*) by 554 runs
Double tons from Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls gave New Zealand a vice grip on proceedings as Sri Lanka were essentially battered and batted out of the second Test in Wellington. In the process, the pair put on a 363-run stand – New Zealand’s second-best third-wicket partnership and fourth-highest for any wicket in New Zealand – during which Sri Lanka’s bowlers were run ragged all around Basin Reserve.
After declaring on 580 for 4, Oshada Fernando and Kusal Mendis were removed in the 17 overs prior to the close of play, as the visitors were left with a stiff battle to save the game still 554 runs behind.
The day however belonged to Williamson and Nicholls, who went on to become the first pair of New Zealand batters to score double centuries in the same innings. In innings that mirrored each other in many ways, they each ended with a control percentage of 93, highlighting the generally risk-free approach that was adopted over the course of the day. This was all the more impressive considering they scored 149 runs in the 34-over morning session at 4.38 an over, and ramped this up further post-lunch scoring a further 139 runs in 26 overs at 5.34.
But this was hardly “Bazball,” rather death by a thousand cuts, with Williamson and Nicholls simply relentless in their run accumulation. Both innings were characterised by a constant working of the fielders to their whim.
Williamson in particular was in fine fettle, working the ball into the gaps either side of the wicket, with the bright red cherry on the middle of his bat telling its own story. His overnight strike rate of 37 was more than doubled in the morning session to 83; he would eventually end up scoring his 296-ball 215 at a rate of 72.63.
One-hundred-and-thirty-eight of his runs came in front of the wicket or in front of square on either side – this was the same for Nicholls, who hit 132 in the same regions. Both players also heavily favoured the flick through midwicket, regardless of whether it was spin or seam thrown at them.
The Sri Lankan bowlers, who had toiled largely fruitlessly for 48 overs the previous day in what was probably the best of the bowling conditions – even if they were complicated by heavy winds – unsurprisingly found the going on day two far worse.
While the wind had become more sporadic, the pitch itself would quicken up as the day went along. This combined with an inability to maintain consistent lines and lengths meant both Williamson and Nicholls were given free rein of Basin Reserve.
Lahiru Kumara, who went for 164 runs at an economy rate of 6.56, took the brunt of the damage, most notably being hooked for back-to-back sixes an hour into the morning session – a first for Williamson in Tests. But to single out Kumara would be unfair with each bowler, barring Kasun Rajitha (3.93) and Dhananjaya de Silva (3.94), going for more than four an over.
After two wicketless sessions though, and the total blowing up, both Williamson and Nicholls began to show more proactive aggression. It was this that eventually brought about Williamson’s demise as he holed out to long-on.
Nicholls though carried on, preying on anything short – something he had shown a propensity for over the course of his innings. He also pushed on after reaching his century off 173 deliveries, taking just 67 more to reach his double hundred. Two balls later Southee called in the declaration.
In contrast to Sri Lanka’s seamers, New Zealand’s prospered with the new ball finding lateral movement that had been missing for much of the first two days. Henry struck first in his probing spell, getting Oshada to edge one through. Doug Bracewell got the other, playing his first Test in over six years, courtesy an outstanding grab at point by Devon Conway, to leave Sri Lanka well and truly on the ropes at the end of play.