Pitch conditions were fantastic and Sri Lanka's batsmen displayed grit, but a relentless bowling effort, spearheaded by Neil Wagner, ensured that New Zealand went to stumps with sights trained firmly on a 1-0 series victory. Sri Lanka were 231/6 at stumps, a mammoth 429 runs away from the target.
Resuming the day at 24/2, Sri Lanka showed plenty of resistance for most part. Skipper Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Mendis buckled in to add 102 runs together on Saturday, 29 December.
It took a stunning catch at extra cover by Matt Henry off Wagner's bowling to end Mendis' defiance for 67 after he played a rare careless waft.
Even though the pitch didn't have much by way of bounce or seam movement, Wagner bowled with typically unyielding spirit, and managed to cause some troubles for batsmen with his back-of-length deliveries.
Yet, Angelo Mathews and Chandimal looked set for another big partnership. Mathews, who along with Mendis, had helped stave off defeat at Wellington, would've hoped to produce another big knock of that nature. His hopes were thwarted by discomfort in the hamstring region which forced him to retire hurt shortly after tea.
Chandimal's chief focus was on playing out deliveries and he had merely crawled past fifty at a strike rate of under 25. His 228-ball vigil was ended by a fierce Wagner short ball which he awkwardly fended for a simple catch at short leg.
Unlike Chandimal, Dickwella was keen to also play his shots. But the approach didn't pay off on the day – he chopped one onto the stumps when he looked to play a booming drive off a wide Tim Southee delivery to fall for 19.
Wagner set Silva up with a few short balls and then bowled a good length one, which Silva – caught in the crease – nicked behind for 18. Suranga Lakmal and Dilruwan Perera then guided Sri Lanka to stumps, the former playing a few entertaining strokes too. It certainly wasn't a bad day for Sri Lanka with the bat, but New Zealand will want to settle for nothing short of a victory on the final day.