COLOMBO New Zealand captain Ross Taylor led from the front with an unbeaten 119 as New Zealand ended the first day of the second test against Sri Lanka on 223 for two wickets on Sunday.
It was Taylor's eighth test hundred and his third as captain while Kane Williamson was on 95 not out at the close which came 9.1 overs early due to rain.
The duo's patient partnership of an unbroken 214 was the highest stand for any wicket by New Zealand in nine matches in 2012.
The stand was the perfect response by New Zealand's batsmen after the debacle of the first test in Galle, when they crumbled for 118 in the second innings and lost by 10 wickets in less than three days.
"With all the pressure and the things that happened during the week (with the loss in Galle) and with all the distractions it's up there with the other hundreds I've scored," Taylor told Reuters.
"But test match cricket is played over five days and how good today was depends on how we get on in the morning."
Taylor chose to bat first but must have been wondering about the wisdom of that decision as his side slipped to 14 for two.
Martin Guptill opened his account with a straight-driven four off Nuwan Kulasekera's medium pace, only to edge the final ball of the first over to first slip where Angelo Mathews took a straightforward catch.
Brendon McCullum fell three overs later, adjudged leg-before wicket to Shaminda Eranga by umpire Marais Erasmus.
McCullum was clearly frustrated by the decision and replays showed he got an inside edge on to the ball before it cannoned into his front pad. There was no reprieve, however, as the Decision Review System is not in operation during this series.
Taylor enjoyed some good fortune early on, slashing Eranga over Mathews at third slip and then inside edging the same bowler past leg-stump, but otherwise played a model innings.
He has faced 241 balls and hit 10 fours and of the five test hundreds scored by New Zealand batsmen this year, Taylor's haul is now three.
Right-hander Williamson, who has another one of those five, faced 229 balls and hit eight fours in an exhibition of risk-free batting.
"Kane Williamson has struggled a bit in recent times and for him to come out and play like he did under a lot of pressure is credit to him," said Taylor.
"He's worked very hard during the week and it's nice when you work hard and get some rewards. He's still got to go on tomorrow but I'm very pleased for him."
The man who tore New Zealand's batting apart in Galle with 11 wickets, left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, finished the day wicket-less after bowling 21 overs for 45 runs.
"He can still get 11 wickets so we don't want to get too carried away," said Taylor.
"He'll still play a big part in this test match but hopefully the way Kane and I played him, the rest of the team can get confidence from that."
New Zealand are seeking to avoid a sixth successive test defeat which would equal their worst sequence of results from 1954 and 1955.
(Editing By Alison Wildey)
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