Latham, Nicholls give NZ give lead

PROLIFIC: New Zealand's batsman Tom Latham drives en route his 176 against Sri Lanka on the third day of the second Test at Christchurch. AFP

Centuries from Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls put New Zealand in line for a defining victory over Sri Lanka on Friday in the second Test with a 659-run second innings lead and the tourists losing early wickets in their record chase.

New Zealand, who led by 74 on the first innings, declared their second innings on day three in Christchurch at 585 for four with Latham scoring 176 to go with his unbeaten 264 in the drawn first Test.

Nicholls was not out on a career best 162 with healthy contributions from Jeet Raval (74) and Colin de Grandhomme (71 not out).

Sri Lanka at stumps were 24 for two with Dinesh Chandimal on 14 and Kusal Menis on six.

Victory for New Zealand would give them a fourth consecutive series win for the first time after wins over the West Indies, England and Pakistan in the past year.

With more than two days left, Sri Lanka had reason for patience but lost both openers -- Dimuth Karunaratne without scoring and Danushka Gunathilaka (four) -- in the first two overs.

No team has ever scored more than 418 in a successful fourth innings run chase and the pitch continues to offer some assistance to the New Zealand bowlers.

Sri Lanka, however, were less effective with the ball and de Grandhomme in particular was scoring freely when Kane Williamson declared midway through the final session.

De Grandhomme, who had six fours and two sixes in his whirlwind innings, passed the 50 mark in a New Zealand record 28 deliveries, one better than the previous best by Tim Southee against England 10 years ago.

New Zealand resumed Friday at 231 for two and Latham, whose unbeaten 264 in the drawn first Test is the top score in all Test cricket this year, continued his purple patch with grim determination through 370 deliveries.

For the most part, it was a near faultless innings, although he was dropped by Dushmantha Chameera on 32 and survived an lbw review on 75. But, on the stroke of tea, Chameera made the breakthrough when he had Latham caught behind off a faint legside edge.

The only reward with the new ball in the morning session came when Lahiru Kumara trapped Ross Taylor in front to claim the senior batsman's wicket for 40.

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Latham, Nicholls give NZ give lead

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