Back at the scene of his last Test series as captain in 2012 before being removed, Ross Taylor produced another batting masterclass to haul up a wobbly New Zealand first innings in the first Test against Sri Lanka here on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka’s mystery spinner Akila Dananjaya was as impressive as Taylor, snaring all five Black Caps wickets in a return of 5-57 off 22 overs.
In a photo finish it was Taylor’s day, though, facing 131 balls in his lively, purposeful innings.Striding to the crease just before lunch as New Zealand lost 3-7 in 24 balls, including Williamson for a three-ball duck, Taylor looked as comfortable and carefree as he ever has.
After all he’d been in tougher spots before, notably seven years ago when he already knew he’d lose the captaincy and scored 142 and 74 in the series-levelling win in Colombo. That was his most recent Sri Lankan knock; while his last test innings was an even 200 against Bangladesh in Wellington in March.
Taylor got his feet moving early, regularly dancing down and disrupting the bowlers’ lengths. He swept effectively and unleashed a savage pull shot in front of square to Sri Lanka’s quickest, Lahiru Kumara.
Dananjaya was on in the eighth over and didn’t take long to get the ball fizzing from the surface.
Dananjaya opened his plentiful bag of tricks which included a standard offspinner, as well as a legspinner and a googly.
Jeet Raval was fooled by the googly, stretching forward and edging after a solid two-hour knock of 33. He and opening partner Tom Latham were in control and added 64 then came the mini collapse including Williamson, the world’s second-ranked test batsman recording his eighth duck.
It all happened in slow motion, as Dananjaya got one to stop in the pitch and the skipper spooned a catch to short mid-wicket.
Williamson did his best to suppress a broad grin after calling correctly. The last seven Galle tests were won by the side batting first; six of them by a minimum of 200 runs.
Brief scores: New Zealand 203 for five in 68 overs (Ross Taylor batting 86, Henry Nicholls 42, Akila Dananjaya 5/57)