Sri Lanka will be confident of levelling the two-match series against New Zealand after restricting the home side to 74 for 2 at stumps on the third day of the second Test as the Blackcaps chase 504 to win.
Chamara Silva's maiden Test century had guided Sri Lanka to 365 all out and the dismissals of the openers Craig Cumming and Jamie How after tea in Wellington have put the tourists into a strong position.
How and Cumming had made a solid start, moving the score on to 56 without loss before Lasith Malinga, who claimed 5 for 68 in the first innings, trapped How lbw. Cumming followed How back to the pavilion with just four runs added as the New Zealand opener prodded a Muttiah Muralitharan doosra into the hands of the wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara. Mathew Sinclair (10) and the captain Stephen Fleming (4) guided the home side safely to the close of play as bad light brought an end to proceedings.
Sri Lanka, resuming on 225 for 5, had made a solid start and lost only Prasanna Jayawardene before lunch after a rain-delayed start and looked to set New Zealand, who lead the two-Test series 1-0, a substantial target. But the spinner Daniel Vettori, who had figures of 7 for 130, cleaned up the Sri Lanka tail in the second session.
Chaminda Vaas, who fell three short of his half-century, was caught behind by Brendon McCullum off Vettori as he looked for the boundary to reach the milestone with 69 added to the score after lunch. Farveez Maharoof and Lasith Malinga then fell lbw to Vettori before Muttiah Muralitharan mis-judged the bounce and handed McCullum an easy stumping to end the innings.
Silva, in only his second Test, was not out on 111 with Vaas on nine after the start of play was delayed for 40 minutes. Silva quickly moved on from his overnight score of 79 not out to complete his century in 144 balls with 12 fours.