| GEO Sports|
| NZ save follow-on against Lankans|
| Updated at: 0228 PST, Friday, August 21, 2009|
GALLE: New Zealand put together a creditable performance on another shortened third day, which defied the prognosis of Wednesday evening when it was suggested that the Kiwis would follow on. Did they have a surprise for Sri Lanka.
A first innings total of 281 for eight – 171 runs short of the 452 they were asked to match and with a little luck there would have been a century as well from left-handed opener Tim McIntosh.
The talking point is that apart from the burgled wicket of Oram for 12, Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis didn't spook the Kiwis as much as it was thought they would.
Muralitharan ended with three for 66 in a protracted spell while Mendis, signed by Hampshire, didn't pose a genuine threat. While Murali did get the ball to fizz a lot more and had managed to extract a lot more turn, Mendis the medium-paced wannabe mystery spinner was left wondering where all the so-called magic and miracle balls that had the Indians flat-footed last year have disappeared to.
If anything, New Zealand played a cunning game, and while they will be disappointed with two decisions – the lbw of McIntosh was marginal – and the one of Oram will be long debated, the caution of the beefy Jesse Ryder was hard to understand.
His normal game plan is to stroke the ball around as elegantly as Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, and while his innings of 42 was conservative by his standards of strokeplay, the design was to see the Kiwis past the follow on target of 253.
His wristy touches and footwork barely hinted of his more swashbuckling style, but he did the job required, and that is one for Ryder and the team. There were some elegant drives and cuts and it left the bowlers thinking of where to bowl to him.
If Thushara Mirando bowled with some excellent seam, it at least kept Sri Lanka in the hunt of forcing the follow on. However, as the M&M menace failed to materialise, the bogey the most Kiwis feared was likely to happen largely evaporated in the occasional afternoon sun.
It was Tim McIntosh, however, who put the foundation stone of the inning together with a solid and determined innings of 69. You could also say that John Wright, that epitome of the stoic New Zealand opening batsmen of the latter part of last century, would be proud of McIntosh's efforts.