WELLINGTON: Aggressive double centuries for Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls powered New Zealand’s dominance in the second Test against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
The Black Caps declared their first innings at an imposing 580-4 before reducing Sri Lanka to 26-2 at stumps on day two, leaving the tourists with a very slim prospect of squaring the two-match series.
The in-form Williamson scored 215 and Nicholls posted a career-best 200 not out, with the pair’s third-wicket stand of 363 virtually batting Sri Lanka out of the contest.
Their partnership was the fifth-highest by any New Zealand combination and they became the country’s first batters to reach 200 in the same innings.
Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne will resume on 16 on Sunday and nightwatchman Prabath Jayasuriya remains on four, with the deficit a daunting 554 runs.
Sri Lanka’s bowlers struggled to generate life on a flat Basin Reserve pitch, forcing Karunaratne to set defensive fields during much of the mammoth partnership.
Williamson and Nicholls batted at a lively clip from the outset, advancing quickly from a 155-2 overnight score and barely looking troubled as they unleashed an array of attacking strokes through the first two sessions.
Williamson was impenetrable as he reached three figures for the third time in successive Tests, becoming the first New Zealander to pass 8,000 runs in the process.
It was a sixth double-century for the 32-year-old — whose unbeaten 121 was pivotal in a final-ball first Test in Christchurch earlier this week.
Having resumed on 26, Williamson struck 23 fours and two sixes before holing out in the deep off spinner Jayasuriya as he tried to escalate the scoring rate.
Nicholls marched on from his overnight 18 to reach three figures before pushing past his previous-best score of 174.
His aggressive 240-ball knock, which featured four sixes, represented a remarkable return to form for the left-hander, whose place in the team was under pressure after failing to reach 40 in his 15 previous innings.
Nicholls said he was aware of criticism of his ongoing selection but said he was made to feel comfortable by support from his teammates and coach Gary Stead.
“Everyone in the group’s been great and you really feel that support,” he said.
“For me, it was just about trusting that I had done it before. It hasn’t happened as much as I’d like in the last period.
“Now the challenge is doing it again knowing that the blueprint is there.”
Nicholls compared the partnership with a 369-run stand with Williamson against Pakistan in Christchurch two years ago.
“The way Kane’s playing, he’s in a real zone out there. It was nice to make that partnership into another really big one.”
Kasun Rajitha, who was off the field for a period nursing a shoulder injury, lodged the best bowling figures of 2-126.
Sri Lanka spinner Dhananjaya de Silva said the tourists were guilty of allowing the double centurions too much leeway.
“Obviously Kane and Henry batted very well. We have to be at our best when we’re facing these players but we missed our lengths,” he said.
De Silva said Sri Lanka hadn’t given up on squaring the series although he conceded it will be very difficult to force a victory.
“We’re not playing for a draw, we’re playing for a win.
“So we have to bat for at least one and a half days. We’ll see what will happen,” he said.
Their response began poorly.
Matt Henry removed opener Oshada Fernando for six before fellow-seamer Doug Bracewell dismissed Kusal Mendis without scoring via a spectacular catch at point from Devon Conway.
It came from Bracewell’s third ball of the match in what is his first Test appearance for more than six years.
READ: Najam Sethi hints at change in New Zealand tour’s schedule