By Amindha de Alwis
New Zealand rattled through the Sri Lankan batting line-up to win the second Test by an innings and 65 runs at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo yesterday (26).
Niroshan Dickwella, batting with an injured finger, put up a valiant resistance and threated to take his side to the close but a combined effort from the New Zealand bowling line-up proved too good as they won the game halfway into the evening session after having declared in the morning with a lead of 187.
Sri Lanka got their second innings off to the worst possible start, losing both openers without scoring; Lahiru Thirmanne failing to make his ground after taking off for a sharp single and makeshift opener Kusal Perera having a waft at a wide Trent Boult delivery.
Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis waded through the rest of the opening spell but any hopes of them repeating their heroics from Wellington last year faded when Mathews edged a Colin de Grandhomme outswinger to first slip.
First innings centurion Dhananjaya de Silva was next to go; edging Ajaz Patel to Tim Southee at second slip and Sri Lanka plummeted further to 32 for five when Will Somerville bowled Kusal Mendis with a fabulous piece of bowling just before lunch.
Dimuth Karunaratne, batting at number seven after a quadriceps muscle tear kept him off the field for the entirety of Day-4, put his head down after lunch and formed a battling partnership along with Dickwella.
The Sri Lankan Captain displayed solidity in defence and a sense of assurance that was clearly missed at the top of the order.
Tim Southee was the man to break the partnership when he had Karunaratne adjudged LBW on review for a 70-ball 21 after the batsman failed to offer a shot to one that jagged back into him.
The wicket was the right-arm seamer’s 250th wicket in Test match cricket; reaching the milestone in the same Test as his teammate Trent Boult.
New Zealand had time for one more before tea when Dilruwan Perera edged one to Ross Taylor in the slips.
Dickwella went into the tea break unbeaten but needed support from the other end if he was to take the game deep.
Suranga Lakmal tried his hardest and fought through 64 tough minutes before Will Somerville got one to bounce and turn and had Lakmal gloving it to short-leg.
Dickwella meanwhile, was proving almost immovable as he shelved his usual aggression and played a patient mature knock. He did play a few of his trademark sweep shots but was otherwise rock-solid against everything New Zealand threw at him.
He brought up his half century off 151 balls - comfortably his slowest in Test match cricket - and while he was at the crease, Sri Lanka still had hopes of clinging on to a draw.
It was not to be however, as Dickwella played one sweep shot too many and popped a catch to Tom Latham at short-leg sparking jubilant celebrations from the New Zealanders.
Boult took the final wicket soon after to seal the deal on a well-deserved series-equaling victory.
Earlier, B. J. Watling notched up his seventh Test match century as New Zealand plundered 49 runs in five overs to extend their lead up to 187.
The big-hitting Colin de Grandhomme held out to deep square-leg off the second ball of the day but Watling manipulated the field to good effect and wasted no time in getting to his hundred.
Tim Southee swung his bat around to make 24 off 10 balls before New Zealand declared their innings; leaving themselves 91 overs to bowl out the hosts and level the series.
Latham was adjudged Man-of-the-Match for his 154 runs in the first innings while Watling was named Man-of-the-Series.
The 1-1 result means that the two sides walk away having secured 60 points each in the ICC Test Championship.
Karunaratne laments batting failures in both innings
By Amindha de Alwis
Sri Lanka Captain Dimuth Karunaratne lamented his team’s inability to put up a big total in the first innings as well as the collapse before lunch yesterday which saw them concede an innings loss to New Zealand in the second test.
Karunaratne stated that their first innings total of 244 was insufficient on what started out as a good surface for batting.
“We could’ve done better in the first innings. Dhananjaya (de Silva) scored a 100, I got a 60 and Mendis 30 but after that nobody could contribute. It’s not a bad wicket and the batsmen should put their hand up. We are playingsix batsmen so we have to contribute somehow,” he said.
He also said that they could have done a better job when bowling to New Zealand after having reduced them to 84 for 3 early on.
“We took three of their good players early and thought that it’ll be easy thereafter. I think they batted well though the pitch dried up and the moisture in the surface reduced which gave us less assistance but I think we could have bowled in better areas like how New Zealand bowled to us on day two.”
Speaking on their approach in the second innings after the New Zealand declaration, Karunaratne said,"We tried to take it session by session. If we can bat really well in the first session we can come up with a draw but we lost couple of wickets in the first session itself. I think first session how we batted was critical.”
When queried on the failures of a few senior players in this test match, Karunaratne remarked that there were some poor decisions made but that he hoped to see them being corrected moving forward.
“Thirimanne’s run-out and Kusal Perera’s shot were are not ideal when you are trying to occupy the crease and draw a test match but I think they will learn from it and hopefully they can minimize such mistakes in future.”
Speaking on the quadriceps injury he sustained Karunaratne said that he is yet to receive the results of his MRI scan.
“It’s a minor quad injury, the physio wanted me to stay in the dressing room since when I run it gets worse. I did the MRI and will get the report today. I’ll look at getting ready for the Pakistan series,” Karunaratne said.
New Zealand Captain Kane Williamson meanwhile, was pleased with his side’s efforts and said that Sri Lanka are a tough side to beat at home.
“Sri Lanka in their own conditions are a very tough team to beat and they played well in Galle and we were close but not close enough. Here we were able to turn that around. It’s a deserved shared series. Both sides played well and deserved to win the games that they did,” the visiting Captain said.
Williamson also praised his batsmen for putting them in a position from where they were able to push for a win.
"Incredibly valuable for a guy (Colin de Grandhomme) to come in and score at better than a run a ball, particularly with the amount of time that was lost. It did require something special to give us an opportunity to win this game, but a number of other contributions, Tom Latham, BJ Watling, we did need those runs,” Willimason added.