Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews deny New Zealand on wicketless day
Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis forged Sri Lanka's second-best stand for the fourth wicket. © AFP

The pair of Kusal Mendis and Angelo Matthews have batted Sri Lanka into a position from where, with rain forecast for day five in Wellington, they can leave the Basin Reserve with a draw few could have envisioned.

From an overnight 20/3, Sri Lanka ended day four on 259/3 with Mendis (116*) and Mathews (117*) having extended their stand for the fourth wicket to 246 – the second best in Sri Lankan history – while denying New Zealand a wicket all through Tuesday. Where yesterday an innings defeat appeared likely, Sri Lanka can now press for a draw on day five.

Mendis marched to his sixth Test century, with Mathews securing his ninth. From conceding a lead of 296 to New Zealand on day three, with Tom Latham scoring a monumental unbeaten 264, Sri Lanka have gotten to within 37 runs of erasing the deficit.

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This stonewalling alliance has frustrated New Zealand, who watched their lead whittled down to hour by hour. Under sunny skies, the overnight batsmen left well and judged which shots to play, crucially surviving the short-ball attack from Neil Wagner. Neither shied away from playing his shots against left-armer Wagner, who was hit for five fours in three overs: two to Mendis and three to Mathews in one over.

Sri Lanka scored 99 runs in the morning session, from 28 overs, and between lunch and tea added 75 in 31.

Mendis, 23, brought up hundred with a pull to the boundary off Wagner, after 215 balls. Mathews, who top-scored for Sri Lanka with 83 in the first innings, dropped to the pitch to perform push-ups after getting his hundred from 248 balls.

Stumps: Sri Lanka 282 & 259/3 (Kusal Mendis 116*, Mathews 117*) trail New Zealand 578 by 37 runs.