By Niall Anderson at the Basin Reserve
Tom Latham batted his way into the record books against Sri Lanka at the Basin Reserve – and then kept going.
A flawless day's batting saw Latham rack up a phenomenal 264 not out - the sixth-highest score in New Zealand test cricket history, as he completely bossed a Sri Lankan bowling attack all over the famous Wellington ground.
It was the largest total by any test batsman in 2018, and Latham remained unbowed at the end of it, recording the highest score of anyone to carry their bat in test cricket. 489 balls and a marathon 694 minutes later, Latham walked off to a standing ovation as New Zealand totalled a mammoth 578, with Latham responsible for 45 per cent of their tremendous tally.
In response, Sri Lanka once again collapsed, slumping to 20-3 before stumps, still trailing by a ridiculous 276 runs. In just 12 overs after Latham walked off, Trent Boult trapped Danushka Gunathilaka lbw for three, Tim Southee bowled Dhananjaya de Silva for a duck, and Dimuth Karunaratne sprayed a wild hook shot down the throat of Boult for Southee's second scalp, and eighth of the match.
While the weather forecast threatens rain on day five, it would be a shock if Sri Lanka even made it that far, requiring a Latham-esque knock of their own for the test to end in anything but an absolute thrashing.
Frankly, Sri Lanka must be sick of the sight of the Basin. The last time they were here, Kane Williamson hit 242 – somehow now the third best score against Sri Lanka in Wellington, after Martin Crowe's 299 and Latham's effort.
Four of New Zealand's top six individual innings have now come against Sri Lanka, and Latham's knock was as good as any of them. Resuming on 121, Latham barely offered the visitors a chance in his second day at the crease in what could be a career-defining knock.
The 26-year-old opener cruised along at a comfortable pace, accumulating with ease, playing some textbook cover drives, and generally compiling a definitive opener's innings – one he was ecstatic to have produced on the biggest stage.
"I'm pretty excited and pretty proud. A great day that I probably thought would never happen – [it's] really nice to be sitting here with those sort of numbers against your name," said Latham.
"I've done that before for Canterbury in first-class cricket, so I certainly knew that the ability to bat for a long period of time was there. That was a few years ago now, and I haven't had an innings like that for a long time. It's very pleasing to do that on the international stage."
After struggling on the recent tour of the United Arab Emirates – averaging just 16.5 – Latham talked about still having complete trust in his game, and he displayed all of that confidence as he pummeled the poor Sri Lankan attack.
He was never rash in his shot-making, and was the ever-present in a slew of demoralising partnerships. He added 114 with Henry Nicholls, who continued his strong form with a solid 50, and then combined for 73 with Colin de Grandhomme, who punched a customarily quick 49.
Latham praised his partners for allowing him to stick to his gameplan.
"The way Henry and Colin played took a little bit of pressure off me. It was quite nice and I could keep on going about my gameplan. Sometimes you can get a bit complacent when you've been out there that long so that was very satisfying."
As they plundered, the records started to fall. Latham brought up his 200 in 412 balls, clipping a single through mid-wicket, becoming the 15th Black Cap to notch a test double century.
He had bigger things in his sights though, and started to hit out as the tail was exposed, becoming just the seventh New Zealander to reach 250. A six saw him move past Glenn Turner's 259 on the all-time list, and he surpassed Stephen Fleming's 262 before he eventually ran out of partners, on 264, after 157 overs of brilliance.
The Basin crowd rose to their feet to applaud him off, and the Black Caps bowlers then made sure that the innings he'll remember forever will surely end in the dominant victory it undoubtedly deserves.
Highest test scores for New Zealand
Brendon McCullum – 302 v India, 2014
Martin Crowe – 299 v Sri Lanka, 1991
Ross Taylor – 290 v Australia, 2015
Stephen Fleming – 274* v Sri Lanka, 2003
Bryan Young – 267* v Sri Lanka, 1997
Tom Latham – 264* v Sri Lanka, 2018