Ross Taylor’s unbeaten 86 helped New Zealand recover from Akila Dananjaya’s five-for for Sri Lanka on the first day of the first Test in Galle.
Dananjaya (5-57) first broke Jeet Raval and Tom Latham’s stubborn opening stand of 64 in the 27th over, getting the latter caught behind, before grabbing the key wicket of Kiwi captain Kane Williamson for a duck three balls later.
After Raval edged to slip a mere seven runs later, Taylor and Henry Nicholls (42) helped lead the recovery with a century stand for the fourth wicket.
Dananjaya returned to pick up a couple of late lbw decisions, clinching his fourth five-wicket haul in Tests, but Taylor held firm as the tourists reached 203-5 when rain ensured an early finish. Mitchell Santner is the other unbeaten batsman on eight.
Both sides have selected three spinners for the turning Galle track, with Dananjaya – who was suspended from bowling during England’s tour late last year due to an illegal bowling action – making an immediate impact on his Test return.
Williamson had won the toss and chose to bat, and Raval (33) and Latham (30) safely negotiated the early threat from seam bowlers Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Kumara, but Dananjaya finally broke through.
Latham went back to a bouncing delivery and edged to recalled wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella, while Williamson was also beaten by the bounce when he pushed the ball straight to opposite number Dimuth Karunaratne at short midwicket. Raval was next to fall, right on the stroke of the lunch, as he defensively prodded to slip.
Taylor and Nicholls dominated the afternoon session, wrestling back the initiative for the Black Caps, only for Dananjaya to strike twice more just before tea, Nicholls and BJ Watling (1) both trapped in front when failing to connect with a sweep shot.
Rain resulted in a delayed start to the final session and, when play did resume, only 7.4 overs more were possible before the weather once again intervened and resulted in an early finish.
The two-Test series, with the second match set for Colombo, is the first for both teams in the newly launched World Test Championship, which features the top nine test-playing nations competing in a league across two years.