Rain completes Mathews and Mendis’ epic rescue
Sri Lanka 282 (Mathews 83, Karunaratne 79; Southee 6-68) and 287 for 3 (Kusal Mendis 141 n.o., Mathews 120 n.o.) drew with New Zealand 578 (Latham 264 n.o., Williamson 91; Kumara 4-127)
They had less than half a session to see out due to rain on day five, but Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews stayed firm as they had all through Thursday, playing out 12 wicketless overs, to secure a draw.
Through the course of the morning’s play, which had begun 90 minutes after the scheduled start time, the pair were largely unbothered by Tim Southee and Trent Boult’s fuller lengths, and even less troubled by the shorter stuff which they have negotiated with supreme confidence right through their partnership. Rain later returned to wash out the remainder of the day.
During the roughly 52 minutes of play that was possible, though, Mendis fetched himself 25 further runs. He struck four boundaries – two of them sublime straight drives – and moved eventually to 141 not out. Mathews, who seemed intent on remaining in stonewall mode, added only three runs to his overnight score, and ended on 120. The partnership was ultimately worth 274, and Sri Lanka were only nine runs in arrears, when the rains returned.
There were very minor scares for each batsman. Mathews was pointedly beaten outside his off stump by a good-length Boult delivery that curved away slightly before pitching. Mendis was close to gloving a waist-high Southee short ball down the leg-side. But so de-fanged is this surface now, that the bowlers barely had the opportunity to capitalise on those slight errors. Almost immediately, the ball began finding the middle of the bat again, and normal service resumed.
The most exciting period of the morning came when Mendis hit 19 runs in the space of seven deliveries, hitting two fours apiece off both Boult and Southee – a period that featured those two straight drives, in addition to a glorious pull to the square leg fence. That flurry of scoring prompted Kane Williamson to bring Neil Wagner and Ajaz Patel into the attack, but although a couple of maidens followed, there was no visible trouble for the batsmen.