WELLINGTON (AFP) – Kumar Sangakkara provided a cricket master class Sunday with an exquisite 203 to lift Sri Lanka off the ropes and put them in command of the second Test against New Zealand.
It was the 10th highest score of Sangakkara’s illustrious Test career and the 11th time he has reached 200, putting him one behind Australian legend Don Bradman for the most double tons.
Sri Lanka were all out for 356, a 135-run lead, and at stumps in their second innings New Zealand were 22 without loss with Hamish Rutherford on 12 and Tom Latham on nine.
The prolific knock was enough to make Sangakkara reconsider retirement plans, saying the idea of overtaking Bradman was attractive.
“I would love to,” he said, adding a final decision on his future would be made after the World Cup starting in New Zealand and Australia next month.
“It’s nice to get big ones especially in a game situation like this, to come back into the game from being 78-5.
“The idea was to punish the loose bowling. When they are constantly put under pressure to keep bowling those good balls and the moment when they make a mistake if that ball goes for a boundary that changes momentum.”
New Zealand wicketkeeper BJ Watling, who had a close up view of Sangakkara’s innings described it as “a demonstration of how to play by a world class player”.
“He showed how good he is.”
Sangakkara, who early in his innings became the fifth and fastest player to reach 12,000 Test runs, batted for nearly seven hours and faced 306 deliveries.
It took a stunning catch by Trent Boult diving high to his left at point to send Sangakkara back to the shed after he slashed at a loose Jimmy Neesham delivery.
After New Zealand dominated the first day when 15 wickets fell, their frontline seamers Boult, Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell never looked strong on day two.
It was master batsman Sangakkara, who unusually failed twice in the first Test, who appeared determined not to go cheaply again as Sri Lanka resumed at 78 for five, 143 in arrears.
Sangakkara put away his attacking instinct as he patiently led his side out of trouble taking 191 balls to reach his 38th Test century cutting Mark Craig for three.
With a three off Neesham in the next over he led Sri Lanka past New Zealand’s 221 with four wickets to spare and then dramatically lifted the tempo as the bowlers tired in the final session.
As Sri Lanka put their nose in front after 74 overs Sangakkara had a century including seven boundaries to his name.
When he was dismissed just 28 overs later, he had contributed 103 of the next 134 runs, adding a further 11 fours and three sixes as he despatched the New Zealand bowlers to all points of the ground.
For much of the day Sangakkara had an admirable partner in Dinesh Chandimal.
Determined not to waste his recall to the side, Chandimal shared a 130-run partnership with Sangakkara for the sixth wicket.
He posted 1,000 runs in Tests on his way to 67, his sixth Test half century, his innings ending when he edged a full Neesham delivery and was caught by Watling.
Neesham and Watling combined again to remove Dhammika Prasad for 11 to have Sri Lanka 242 for 7.
Rangana Herath added 15 before was caught by Watling off Boult.
Suranga Lakmal scored only five of the 67 runs for the ninth wicket posted with Sangakkara.
The innings closed with Lakmal’s stumping to give Watling a hand in five dismissals.
For New Zealand, Neesham was the most successful bowler on day two with three for 42 while Doug Bracewell finished with three for 93 without adding to the trio of wickets he took Saturday.