CHRISTCHURCH: Kusal Mendis made 73 not out from just 51 balls as Sri Lanka eased into favorable conditions for the bowlers to reach 120-1 at lunch after being asked to bat on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand.
Captain Dimuth Karunaratne was bowled for 33 off 62 balls after being bowled at the green by Christchurch, while New Zealand captain Tim Southee opted to bowl.
Southsea made an early breakthrough when he dropped Osha Fernando down leg for 13 in the seventh over to leave Sri Lanka 14-1 off the worst delivery of the morning.
But Mendis was lucky enough to reach his 16th Test fifty off 40 balls, despite the pitch favoring the bowlers and the floodlights in cloudy skies at Hagley Oval.
Mendis and Karunaratne put on an unbroken partnership of 106 before the break.
The pair scored quickly as inside edges and top edges found the boundary, with Mendis hitting 15 of Sri Lanka’s 21 fours in the session.
Neil Wagner, in particular, came in for harsh treatment, with the fast bowler’s three overs scoring 30 runs.
New Zealand’s new ball pairing of Southee and Matt Henry have found movement in the air and off the pitch.
But their only success came when Fernando chased down a ball that bounced down the leg and slotted an easy shot past goalkeeper Tom Blundell.
Karunaratne got a scare and the ball tossed wide of the stumps and was only saved by a review, not giving Mendis a point.
New Zealand made one change to the side that led England to a famous one-run victory last week, with seamer Blair Tickner returning at the expense of batsman Will Young.
Earlier, captain Tim Southee won the first Test against Sri Lanka under cloudy skies.
The Hagley Oval wicket has a traditional emerald glow which made the decision clear for Southee.
“We’ll have a bowl. Obviously there’s a bit of green on the wicket and that’s what you do at Hagley,” he said.
If Sri Lanka sweep the two Test series, they have a chance to reach the final of the World Cup.
The visitors have experience in their batting stocks but look light on pace among their bowlers.
Their captain Dimuth Karunaratne said he hopes to see signs of a turnaround when the match starts.
“If you pass the first session, it should be good. We have a chance to go to the (world) finals, the boys are doing well, we have to take it one test at a time,” he said.
“The past doesn’t matter, if we play well, we will have a better chance. We will have three pacers but we will play a spinner.”
New Zealand are looking to build on their sensational win over England last week.
The Black Caps have dropped batsman Will Young in favor of seamer Blair Tickner, who will add an additional fast bowling option to their ranks.
New zealand: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Blundell, Michael Bracewell, Tim Southey (capt), Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, Blair Tickner
Sri Lanka: Oshada Fernando, Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Kasun Rajitha, Asita Fernando, Prabat Jayasuriya, Lahiru Kumara
Judges: Michael Gough (NLT), Chris Gaffany (NZL)
TV fills: Richard Illingworth (KAZAKHSTAN)
Referee of the match: Richie Richardson (WIS)