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Fleming, Richardson put NZ in control
- FIRST TEST l Sri Lanka pay for missed chances

Colombo: Stephen Fleming hit an unbeaten 112 in a record 172-run stand with Mark Richardson as New Zealand kept Sri Lankaís spin attack at bay on the opening day of the first Test here on Friday.

The left-handed pair compiled New Zealandís best second- wicket partnership against Sri Lanka as the tourists, electing to take first strike, stonewalled their way to 207 for two by close.

Flemingís fifth Test century came just before opener Richardson, batting with a runner due to a hamstring injury, was dismissed for a painstaking 85 with the first delivery of the second new ball.

Matthew Sinclair kept his captain company at stumps, making four after a 30-minute stay at the crease.

Fleming and Richardson overcame oppressive heat and humidity to surpass New Zealandís previous best of 141 by Matthew Horne and Bryan Young for the second wicket against Sri Lanka at Dunedin in 1996-97.

Sri Lankaís new captain Hashan Tillekeratne rotated six bowlers, four of them spinners, in short spells but failed to dislodge the pair early.

The perceived threat from Muttiah Muralidharan never materialised as the star off-spinner, who began with a wide and no ball in his first over, went wicketless in 27 overs.

Fleming, the highest scorer on both sides with 359 runs when the two teams last played a Test series in Sri Lanka six years ago, has so far hit 14 boundaries.

Richardson, who hit 106 and 93 in the two practice games ahead of the Test, continued his good form to strike seven fours and a six before being clean bowled by Chaminda Vaas.

The Tamil Union wicket afforded lift and bounce in the first two hours before settling down to aid batsmen willing to play their strokes.

But New Zealand, playing their first Test match since December following a surfeit of one-day matches including the World Cup, preferred to graft for their runs.

They scored 58 runs off 31 overs in the morning session and then moved to 131 by tea, before opening out against the tiring bowlers in the final hour.

Horne was the batsman to miss out, making four runs in the first 45 minutes of play before his misery was ended by a brilliant diving catch at short-leg by Kumar Dharmasena. Horne fended at a rising ball from debutant Prabath Nissanka and Dharmasena dived to his right to pick up a low catch.

With a first Test wicket under his belt, Nissanka worked up a tidy pace in his first 11 overs, conceding just 10 runs.

Tillekeratne introduced spin in the form of Dharmasena in the 11th over and then brought on Muralidharan in the 21st, by which time the Black Caps had only 38 runs on the board.

Both teams went in with five bowlers at the start of the short two-Test series.

Sri Lanka, as expected, played three specialist spinners, including debutant leg-spinner Kaushal Lokuarachchi, with the option of a fourth slow bowler in Sanath Jayasuriya.

The New Zealanders fielded two spinners in Daniel Vettori and Paul Wiseman and a three-man pace attack of Shane Bond, Jacob Oram and Daryl Tuffey.

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