Wicketkeeper B.J. Watling took catches to account for all three wickets and take his match tally to nine – equaling the national record he set against India last year – before a hailstorm forced stumps to be taken early.
Opener Tom Latham made an unbeaten 109 before New Zealand declared at 267-3 just prior to lunch, giving the hosts a little more than five sessions to bowl out Sri Lanka for a 1-0 lead in the two-test series.
Captain Brendon McCullum allowed for rain in the timing of his bold declaration and showers forced several stoppages over the final two sessions of a bitterly cold day.
Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis gave Sri Lanka a sound start, putting on a patient 54 for the first wicket before Karunaratne was out for 29, slashing at a short ball from Tim Southee and edging it through to Watling.
The keeper claimed another soon after when Udara Jayasundera gloved a Neil Wagner delivery down the leg side. Jayasundera made scores of 1 and 3 in a forgettable test debut.
New Zealand took the upper hand when opener Kusal Mendis was out for 46 just before the hail arrived. Mendis, in only his second test, batted for three and a half hours to hold together the Sri Lanka top order before edging a Southee outswinger through to a diving Watling.
Dinesh Chandimal (31 not out) and Angelo Mathews – yet to face a ball – will resume on day five.
Sri Lanka needs 296 more runs to win in at least 100 overs, and may find the weather aiding its task to force a draw.
Earlier, Latham scored his third test century and his first on home soil to provide the backbone of the New Zealand second innings. With his father, former New Zealand test batsman Rod Latham, watching, Latham took a single from the last ball before drinks in the morning session to reach his century from 166 balls.
”It was nice to kick on today but it was important to put on a good score this morning and we managed to push that declaration and have a crack at them before lunch,” Latham said.
”The pitch is pretty flat but it’s only going to deteriorate from here and we saw today there was a little bit of uneven bounce and if we can extract that out of the wicket tomorrow, hopefully we can pick up Chandimal and Mathews early and go from there.”
Latham put on 141 for the second wicket with Kane Williamson, who made 71, as New Zealand steadily built on its first innings lead of 137 after resuming a 171-1. New Zealand dismissed Sri Lanka for 294 on the third day in reply to its own first innings of 431.
Williamson produced his second half century of the match after making 88 in the first innings and becoming only the second New Zealander to score 1,000 test runs in a calendar year. McCullum was the first and he added another milestone Sunday when hit his 100th six in tests, equaling the career record held by former Australia wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist.
Williamson was bowled by Dushmantha Chameera with a ball which pierced his usually impregnable defense. Ross Taylor was also bowled, charging Herath, before McCullum arrived to speed his team towards a declaration as rain clouds gathered. (Courtesy AP)