December 18, 2018 / 7:51 AM / in a month

Cricket: Patel optimistic despite New Zealand's wicketless toil

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand’s rare wicketless day could not rob left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel of his optimism about a positive result in the opening test against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

The Sri Lankan duo of Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis struck unbeaten centuries in an epic 246-run stand for the unbroken fourth wicket to give their side a chance of saving the match on what is likely to be a rain-affected final day.

“Nothing is expected in cricket,” Patel told reporters after enduring a day of toiling without success.

“We know it’s a funny game. It can bite you in the arse if you expect too many things.”

Before the fourth day started, New Zealand had been expected by many who filed through the Basin Reserve gates to have wrapped up the game and take a 1-0 lead in the two-match series possibly by tea.

Sri Lanka resumed 20 for three, still 276 runs from forcing New Zealand to bat again and facing a well-rested pace bowling duo of Trent Boult and Tim Southee with a ball just 12 overs old.

Instead, the crowd, as well as the New Zealand team, was made to wait and eventually left frustrated as Mendis and Mathews ground out unbeaten centuries to guide their side to 259 for three at stumps.

While still 37 runs in deficit, with rain forecast for Wednesday the visitors are well placed to survive what had looked to be a crushing defeat after the hosts dominated the first three days.

“They batted well,” Patel said.

“We really put the ball in good areas and tried to come hard at them, but they rode those waves and adapted to those conditions quite well and the way we were bowling at them.

“They soaked up pressure when they needed to and then they applied pressure when they needed to.

“So credit goes to them with the way they applied themselves throughout the day.”

Patel only made his test debut against Pakistan on the recent tour in the United Arab Emirates and said the rarity of a wicketless day was sinking in for the entire team.

However, based on his limited experience, nothing was expected in the game.

“There were long periods where nothing happened (in the UAE) and then all of a sudden it went ‘bang, bang, bang’,” he said.

“I think the boys realise there is still a lot of cricket to be played with another day left.

“The positive thing for us is that we are the only team in a position to win the game.

“That’s a great position for us to be in.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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