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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Buzz Up Sri Lanka 293-3 at close vs. New Zealand

Mahela Jayawardene scored an unbeaten century to put Sri Lanka on top as the hosts reached 293-3 at the close on the opening day of the first test against New Zealand on Tuesday.

Walking to bat with his team looking vulnerable on 16-2, Jayawardene first played a supporting role as a flamboyant Tillakaratne Dilshan went on the offensive, and later took over the lead as he guided Sri Lanka to a dominant position.

Dilshan was bowled by seamer Iain O'Brien for 92 after lunch in sight of his ninth test hundred, hitting 12 fours and a six in 72 balls as he opened for the first time in test cricket instead of the out-of-form Malinda Warnapura.

The dismissal signaled the end of a valuable 118-run stand.

"I am really disappointed to get out at 92," Dilshan told reporters, but he said he had relished the opportunity to open the batting.

"It's much easier, there is no pressure," Dilshan said. "Now I can play my own game. I feel much more comfortable batting at the top-order."

Dilshan said he was under pressure after Sri Lanka lost quick wickets but his aggression put the pressure back on the Kiwis. He said the hosts were now looking to post a first innings score of at least 450.

Jayawardene paired with Thilan Samaraweera in the best partnership of the day, an unbroken 159 runs for the fourth wicket.

Jayawardene's 108 not out was his 26th test hundred that came off 217 balls in nearly five hours at the crease.

Seam bowler Chris Martin returned the best bowling figures for the Kiwis, taking 2-59.

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori won the toss in the morning and sent Sri Lanka in to bat, hoping to generate some swing from a Galle pitch softened by heavy rains in the past few days.

The match started 90 minutes late due to a wet outfield caused by overnight rain.

Martin responded well to his captain's plan, striking on his third delivery of the innings with the hosts yet to score, to have Tharanga Paranavitana caught behind.

Kumar Sangakkara made just 8 before he was caught by Daniel Flynn at mid-wicket off Martin as the hosts stumbled to a precarious 16-2.

Martin said the pitch assisted the seam bowlers for a shorter period than expected and credited the Sri Lankan batsmen for their discipline.

Sri Lanka recalled spinner Ajantha Mendis for the match at the expense of left-arm bowler Rangana Herath, despite his match-winning performances in the last series against Pakistan.

Offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan and regular wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardena also returned to the side after injury layoffs.

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