Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls' double centuries put New Zealand in control of the game against Sri Lanka
In the second Test match against Sri Lanka in Wellington on Saturday, New Zealand dominated thanks to aggressive double centuries from Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls.
After declaring their first innings at a commanding 580-4, the Black Caps reduced Sri Lanka to 26-2 at day two's end, giving the visitors a very narrow chance of tying the two-match series.
Williamson, who was in good form, batted 215 while Nicholls recorded a career-high 200 not out. Their third-wicket partnership of 363 runs effectively eliminated Sri Lanka from the match.
They became the first hitters in the nation to achieve 200 in a single inning, and their partnership ranked sixth among all New Zealand combinations.
With a huge 554 run deficit, Sri Lankan skipper Dimuth Karunaratne will start play on Sunday at position 16 and nightwatchman Prabath Jayasuriya at position 4.
Karunaratne was forced to set defensive fields for the most of the massive partnership because Sri Lanka's bowlers were unable to produce life on a flat Basin Reserve ground.
Williamson and Nicholls batted at a brisk pace right away, moving up from an overnight total of 155-2 with no difficulty while launching a variety of aggressive strokes throughout the course of the first two sessions.
Williamson was unstoppable as he reached the triple digits for the third time in as many Test matches, becoming the first New Zealander to surpass 8,000 runs in the process.
The 32-year-old, whose unbroken 121 was crucial in a last-ball first Test in Christchurch earlier this week, recorded his sixth double-century.
Williamson sought to increase the scoring pace after resuming on 26, but instead he holed out in the deep off spinner Jayasuriya after hitting 23 fours and two sixes.
Nicholls increased his score from his overnight 18 to three digits before surpassing his previous record of 174.
The left-aggressive hander's 240-ball innings, which included four sixes, was a surprising return to form for the player, whose spot on the club was under threat since he hadn't reached 40 in any of his previous 15 innings.
Nicholls acknowledged that his continued selection had drawn criticism, but he said that his teammates and coach Gary Stead's encouragement had put him at ease.
The support from everyone in the group is palpable, he added.
"For me, it was just a matter of having faith in my prior success. That hasn't occurred as much as I'd want in the recent period.
"Now the problem is executing it again knowing that the blueprint is there."
"Missing our lengths"
The partnership was likened by Nicholls to a 369-run stand between Williamson and Pakistan in Christchurch two years before.
"Based on his performance, Kane is clearly in the zone outside. Turning that collaboration into another significant one was excellent.
The greatest bowling stats came from Kasun Rajitha, who spent some time off the field recovering from a shoulder ailment. His score was 2-126.
Dhananjaya de Silva, a spinner for Sri Lanka, said that the visitors were to blame for giving the double centurions too much latitude.
"Kane and Henry obviously batted quite well. We need to perform at our peak going up against these guys, but we fell short," he remarked.
De Silva said that Sri Lanka had not given up on tying the series, despite the fact that he acknowledged it would be extremely difficult to force a win.
"We're playing for a victory, not for a draw.
Thus, we must bat for at least 1.5 days. We'll have to wait and see," he replied.
Their answer started horribly.
Oshada Fernando, the game's first wicket, was taken out by Matt Henry for six, and then fellow seamer Doug Bracewell dismissed Kusal Mendis without a run thanks to an amazing catch by Devon Conway at the point.
In his first Test performance in more than six years, Bracewell's third ball of the game was the one that brought it about.