Galle, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka spinner Rangana Herath continued his love affair with the Galle International Cricket Stadium as he took 5/65 to help dismiss New Zealand for 221 on the opening day of the first Test on Saturday.
The left-armer's effort was his fourth five-wicket haul in eight matches at the venue and means 40 of his 159 Test wickets have come there.
New Zealand struck back late on with Tim Southee dismissing Sri Lanka debutant Dimuth Karunaratne leg-before wicket for nought as the home side reached nine for one at close of play.
“I really like it (here in Galle),” Herath told reporters. “I made my (Test) debut here and most of the time I have done well here in Galle.
“We've done well. If we can get runs tomorrow we are well ahead in the game,” he added.
Herath was the man who dismissed New Zealand's top-scorers, Brendon McCullum (68) and Daniel Flynn (53), and was well supported by seam bowlers Shaminda Eranga (three for 51) and Nuwan Kulasekara (two for 31).
McCullum was dismissed the ball after hitting Herath straight for six, beaten and bowled by a ball which turned and beat the outside edge, while Flynn was caught behind by wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardena in the over before tea.
McCullum, who opened the innings, hit eight fours and two sixes in an innings which mixed positivity with watchful defence while Flynn passed a half-century for the first time in Tests in more than three years, facing 152 balls and hitting seven fours.
“It was not the batting performance we were after as you win the toss in Galle and hope to get more than 400,” McCullum said.
“The pitch was good. It turned more than you might expect on day one but you also expect that in the sub-continent.
“We have to look forward to tomorrow and it is a big first hour for us to try and expose the Sri Lanka middle-order. If we can then that will make today's disappointment easier to handle.”
New Zealand, looking to make amends after a 3-0 defeat in a rain-scarred one-day series, started well with captain Ross Taylor winning the toss in hot and sunny conditions and on a pitch expected to be at its best on the first three days.
But they quickly stumbled to 40/3 as Eranga dismissed Martin Guptill (11) and Kane Williamson (0) in the space of three balls, both to catches behind the wicket, while Taylor (9) was bowled through the gate playing a loose drive at Kulasekara.
McCullum and Flynn resurrected the innings with a stand of 90 in 33 overs either side of lunch but when both men, together with James Franklin – who laboured for 43 balls for three before Herath trapped him leg before wicket – fell in the afternoon session, the writing was on the wall for the touring side.
The disappointing total continued New Zealand's struggles with the bat during this calendar year as they have now posted only three scores of 300 or more in nine Tests in 2012.
The second match of the series takes place in Colombo starting on 25 November. – Reuters