Tim Southee made a defiant 68 and took 3-29 to help New Zealand balance the second Test against Sri Lanka Wednesday after the tourists held sway for most of the opening day.
Southee put on 108 for New Zealand's seventh wicket with wicketkeeper B.J. Watling (46) to help it reach 178 from a perilous 64/6 after being sent in to bat.
At stumps, Sri Lanka was 88/4 with Southee having claimed the first three wickets of the tourists' innings for the third time in the two-Test series. He did so in both innings of the first Test at Wellington which was drawn, leaving the series to be decided in the current match.
Suranga Lakmal was the principal wicket-taker for Sri Lanka, returning Test-best figures of 5/54 and adding a catch which brought New Zealand's insipid innings to an end after only 50 overs.
Sri Lanka was still on top at the change of innings, despite Southee's fifth half century in Tests — his second in consecutive Test matches on Hagley Oval. He also made 50 against England in the previous Test on the ground in March.
Southee took three wickets with the new ball but New Zealand again couldn't move Mathews who made 83 and 121 not out as Sri Lanka forced a draw in the first Test.
At stumps Mathews was 27 not out sharing an unbroken 37-run partnership with Roshen Silva (15 not out) who is batting with an injured hand.
"It was nice to get a couple of runs and to have them four down at the end of the day was quite a good effort," Southee said. "It was nice to put a bit of pressure back on them.
"They started exceptionally well with the ball and it was nice to get a partnership and spend some time out there. We knew after losing the toss it was going to be exceptionally tough and to scrap through to 178 gave us a bit of a chance.
"We knew we had to get a few early wickets, which we did."
Mathews survived a review for lbw on the last ball of the day and now becomes the key to Sri Lanka's effort to establish a substantial first innings lead, and build on Lakmal's superb bowling to grab his second five-wicket bag in Tests.
Lakmal bowled a full length on a green and moist pitch which allowed just enough seam movement to punish any batting error and New Zealand made several.
Raval was out to a miscued shot, a leading edge to mid-off, while Latham and Williamson fell to catches behind the wicket when the ball deviated. Nicholls was bowled by a superb delivery, angled into the batsman, which straightened between bat and pad.
Ross Taylor, who had looked in good touch making 27, was run out at the non-striker's end when a straight shot by Watling was diverted onto the stumps by Lahiru Kumara. Colin De Gandhomme threw his wicket away with a careless pull shot which left New Zealand 64-6.
Southee turned the pressure on the Sri Lanka bowlers, hitting six fours and three sixes and reaching his half century from 43 balls. His innings was ended by a superb catch at midwicket by Danushka Gunathilaka and Watling fell soon after to a catch in the gully.