Tim Southee struck twice to get into the Sri Lankan tail as New Zealand edged close to a series-levelling victory on day five of the second rain-hit Test on Monday. At tea, Sri Lanka, who scored 244 in their first innings and were still 187 behind as they started their second, were tottering at 88 for seven at Colombo’s P. Sara Oval.

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Niroshan Dickwella, on 36, and Suranga Lakmal on 0 were batting with the hosts still trailing by 99 runs and needing to bat out one more session for a series-clinching draw. Sri Lanka are 1-0 up in the two-Test series after their six-wicket victory in Galle.

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Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne provided some resistance with his 70-ball 21 as he and Dickwella put on 41 runs for the sixth wicket before Southee broke the stand. Karunaratne, who came after the fall of the fifth wicket following his time off the field on day four due a muscle strain, was trapped lbw. Southee struck again with the second wicket of the session to send back Dilruwan Perera for nought as the hosts slipped to 75 for seven.

READ: New Zealand skittle Sri Lanka’s top order

Earlier B.J. Watling scored an unbeaten 105 in the first session of play before skipper Kane Williamson declared the innings to give the tourists a shot at levelling the series. Sri Lankan openers were returned to the pavilion without scoring as Ajaz Patel got Lahiru Thirimanne run out with a direct throw in the first over of the innings.

Kusal Perera was caught behind off paceman Trent Boult and the Sri Lankan top-order fell like a pack of cards. Kusal Mendis provided his team with the only bit of fight-back with his 20 off 63 deliveries before being bowled off a big turning delivery from off-spinner William Somerville.

Karunaratne, who went off the field on day four after suffering a muscle strain in his left leg, could not bat in the usual opening slot and came in at number seven to face three deliveries before lunch.

In the morning session Watling lost his overnight partner Colin de Grandhomme early after the tourists resumed the final day’s play on 382 for five but went on to stretch their lead. De Grandhomme was holed out at square leg while attempting a slog sweep off Lasith Embuldeniya for 83 on the second ball of the morning session.

Watling, who started the day on 81, went on to complete his seventh Test fifty and took on the Sri Lankan bowlers with Tim Southee for company. Southee smashed 24 off 10 deliveries with two fours and two sixes as he put on an unbeaten 49-run stand with Watling. Tom Latham remained the top-scorer of the match with his 154.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka 88/7 (Tim Southee 1-2) and 244 (Dhananjaya de Silva 109; Tim Southee 4-63) trail New Zealand 431/6 dec (Tom Latham 154, BJ Watling 105*, Dilruwan Perera 3-114) by 99 runs