Sri Lanka's Kusal Mendis (R) was unbeaten on 73 at lunch on Thursday in the opening Test against New Zealand

Christchurch (New Zealand) (AFP) - Sri Lanka reached 209-3 at tea after being asked to bat on the first day of the first Test in Christchurch, despite New Zealand taking the wickets of Kusal Mendis and Dimuth Karunaratne to break a 137-run partnership.

But it was a short-lived respite as Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal put on an unbroken 58 for the fourth wicket at the interval on a green-looking wicket.

Mendis and captain Karunaratne, who came together at 14 for one, made light work of the bowler-friendly conditions as they raced to 120-1 at lunch, scoring at nearly five an over and peppering the boundary with 19 fours.

Neil Wagner, in particular, came in for some harsh treatment, and the quick bowler was taken out of the attack after his three overs cost 30 runs.

Mendis rode his luck to reach his 16th Test fifty off just 40 balls.

He was looking for his eighth Test century and the score had reached 151 when he was trapped in front by Tim Southee for 87 to end a sparkling innings that included 16 fours.

In the following over, with no addition to the total, Karunaratne followed, caught at second slip for 50 by Tom Latham to give Matt Henry his first wicket.

New Zealand were unable to cash in on having two new batsmen at the crease.

Mathews and Chandimal faced two overs before the drinks break and then had to start all over again when a brief shower delayed the resumption by 15 minutes.

Mathews was on 28 at tea with Chandimal on 24.

New Zealand’s new-ball pair Southee and Matt Henry found movement through the air and off the pitch early before Southee made the initial breakthrough when opener Oshada Fernando was caught down the legside for 13 in the seventh over.

It was arguably Southee’s worst delivery of the morning but Fernando could not resist chasing a ball that was swinging away from him.