A biting northwesterly whipped through the venue after rain had washed out the morning session’s play. The New Zealand MetService put the average wind speed in Wellington at close to 60kph during the late afternoon, with some gusts likely far more powerful than that. Players’ hats, sunglasses, and even the bails on top of the stumps kept being taken by gusts.
Conway, who plays domestic cricket for Wellington Firebirds at the Basin Reserve, said these were the most severe winds he’d experienced at the ground on a playing day.
“Today was the windiest conditions I’ve ever played in at the Basin,” Conway said. “There was a moment when both sets of bails fell off and they brought out heavy bails that I’d never seen before in my career. It would have been a real challenge for their bowlers and they were some tough conditions to play cricket in.
“Early on, with a couple of their guys, I could see on their faces – they were thinking, ‘This is quite a challenge.’ And also the way they bowled at times, particularly into the wind, they missed their lengths and bowled slightly too full and gave you scoring opportunities.”
Conway used his experience at the venue to make 78 off 108 balls, which formed the bedrock of New Zealand’s 155 for 2 when play stopped for bad light.
“At the beginning the thing I did was to stand a little lower in my base, not to get pushed left and right by the wind,” Conway said. “And with my bat as well, when I was waiting for the bowler to bowl, I could feel it getting pushed away from my body, and up and down. It was sort of trying to stay nice and firm in my stance, and putting their bowlers under pressure by taking the wind into account. I understand it was a green surface, so I needed to make good decisions – leaving the balls I needed to leave, and attacking balls that were in my area.”
Although New Zealand were scoreless for the first three overs of the innings, and had only made 20 after nine, Conway hit boundaries square of the wicket in particular as Sri Lanka’s bowlers strayed. He was striking at over 70 when he was eventually dismissed, making a mistake against the spin of Dhananjaya de Silva.
“I’m very fortunate to call this my home – I’ve played a fair few four-day games for the Wellington Firebirds here,” Conway said. “I’ve taken a lot of experience from playing in those games. As you can see, on the first day, it’s more often than not pretty green here.
“One thing you can do as a batter is flip that mindset, and keep a positive mindset throughout. For me personally, it’s about trying to go after balls that are in my area, not over-hit the ball, and trust the bounce, because there’s good bounce here on day one and day two. Leaving on length is something I try and incorporate into my plan.”
Although the surface was green, Sri Lanka’s fast-bowling coach Gamage did not believe the track was as conducive to seam-bowling as it appeared.
“It was a green top but we didn’t get that lateral movement like Christchurch, so it was flat conditions. They didn’t get that movement, so that’s why we didn’t do well in the first few hours. When you take the third session they improved a lot.”
There was also dampness in the outfield following the morning’s substantial rains, however, and a wet ball may have prevented it from moving as much as it could have.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf