| Romesh Kaluwitharana on the rampage Monday in Colombo.
The wicketkeeper-batsman hit a quickfire 76. (AFP)
|Hashan Tillekeratne (left) after completing his century on Day IV. With him is Kumara Dharmasena
Colombo: The first Test between Sri Lanka and New Zealand was set for a draw after rain halted play in the post-lunch session of the fourth day’s play here Monday.
Sri Lanka, replying to New Zealand’s first innings total of 515 for seven declared, were 424 for six when a thunderstorm drove the players back to the pavilion 45 minutes before tea.
Australian umpires Daryl Harper and Simon Taufel waited till after the tea break for the weather to clear before abandoning play for the day.
Sri Lanka’s new captain Hashan Tillekeratne, responding to his counterpart Stephen Fleming’s epic 274 with a dour century of his own, was unbeaten on 126 after a marathon seven-hour stay at the crease.
Kumara Dharmasena was on 19, having put on 50 for the unbroken seventh wicket on the placid wicket that afforded no assistance to the bowlers after the first day.
The rain brought relief to the players who had struggled for three-and-a-half days in oppressive heat and humid conditions and some 1200 bored spectators who had watched the bat dominate the ball from the start.
With a result unlikely on the fifth day, the focus has already shifted to the second and final Test of the short series starting in the hill resort of Kandy on Saturday.
Recalled wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana lit up the fourth morning with a quickfire 76 after Sri Lanka resumed at the overnight score of 267 for four.
Kaluwitharana and Tillekeratne put on 107 for the sixth wicket — the captain contributing just 26 — after Mahela Jayawardene was dismissed off the fourth ball of the morning.
Jayawardene, who hit 58 Sunday to return to form after a disastrous World Cup last month, was caught behind off Jacob Oram without adding to his score.
The 33-year-old Kaluwitharana, playing his first Test in two years, justified his selection by tearing into the New Zealand attack with 13 hits to the fence.
The aggressive batsman, a surprise exclusion for the World Cup, relieved the pressure by smashing Oram and Shane Bond for two boundaries each.
He then welcomed Scott Styris into the attack with two square cuts that raced to the point fence and brought up his half-century by driving the same bowler for his 10th boundary.
Kaluwitharana appeared set for a century when he pulled Paul Wiseman uppishly to mid-wicket where Mathew Sinclair gratefully accepted the catch.
Tillekeratne, appointed captain for the two-Test series after Sanath Jayasuriya stepped down voluntarily to concentrate on his batting, was his usual dour self at the other end.
Starting the day at 71, he allowed the rampaging Kaluwitharana to dominate the strike before reaching his 11th Test century 25 minutes before lunch with a boundary off Bond.
Bond and off-spinner Wiseman were the most successful New Zealand bowlers with two wickets each.