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Best of the Tests: Sri Lanka in New Zealand

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New_Zealand_Sri_Lanka_Test_CricketSri Lanka’s third Test tour of New Zealand in five years gets underway on December 15, with the first of two Tests to be played at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. While New Zealand come into the series buoyed after defeating Pakistan in the UAE, Sri Lanka will look to shrug off the disappointment of being blanked by England at home.

Since their first tour in 1982-83, Sri Lanka have played 17 Tests in New Zealand, winning only two and losing ten. As we look forward to the tussle between the Black Caps and the Lions, here is a look back at five memorable Test matches played between the two teams in New Zealand.

Records galore at the Basin – First Test, Wellington, 1990-91

Sri Lankan fast bowlers Rumesh Ratnayake (4/45) and Graeme Labrooy (4/68) gave their team an early advantage by rolling New Zealand over for 174 on the first day. Sri Lanka’s response revolved around a majestic 267 from Aravinda de Silva, which went past Brendon Kuruppu’s 201* (against New Zealand at Colombo in 1986-87) as the highest Test score by a Sri Lankan. The visitors were bowled out for 497 on the third day, with Danny Morrison returning 5/153.

Behind by 323, New Zealand were provided with a solid start through a stand of 134 between openers Trevor Franklin and John Wright (88). Wright’s loss at 148 brought together Andrew Jones and captain Martin Crowe, and the duo embarked upon a new record partnership for any wicket in Tests. They dug in for the best part of the fourth and fifth days in a monumental third-wicket alliance of 467, bettering the previous record of 451 that was achieved on two occasions.

Jones fell for 186, while Crowe narrowly missed out on a triple hundred, getting out caught behind for a national-record 299 that took over ten hours and ensured a draw. Sri Lanka’s 497 and New Zealand’s 671/4 were then the highest Test totals for the respective teams. The 467-run stand has since been broken twice, while Crowe’s 299 remained the record for New Zealand until 2013-14, when Brendon McCullum surpassed it with 302 against India, also at Wellington.

Sri Lanka’s landmark victory – First Test, Napier, 1994-95

This was Sri Lanka’s first Test win overseas, which culminated in a first overseas series victory after the second match in the two-Test rubber was drawn. Until this series, all of their four Test match wins had come at home, and their away record read 17 defeats and 14 draws in 31 Tests. Captain Arjuna Ranatunga (55) rescued Sri Lanka from 64/5 after losing the toss, carrying the total to 183. Pacemen Danny Morrison and debutant Kerry Walmsley took three wickets apiece.

Sri Lanka’s own pace duo of Chaminda Vaas and Pramodya Wickremasinghe then ripped through New Zealand’s top-order, reducing the score to 6/3. Only Stephen Fleming and captain Ken Rutherford managed double figures, as New Zealand folded for 109 on the second day, Vaas taking 5/47. Sri Lanka themselves crashed to 22/3, but the middle order kept them ahead in the contest. The reliable Aravinda de Silva hit 62, while Hashan Tillekaratne scored a gritty 74.

But the top score came from debutant wicketkeeper Chamara Dunusinghe, who struck a patient 91 from number seven. New Zealand began their steep chase of 427 soundly, with number three Mark Greatbatch (46) looking in fine fettle. However, the innings fell apart from 108/1, and terminated at 185 early on the final day, giving Sri Lanka a historic 241-run win. Vaas (5/43) starred again, this time combining with the wiles of off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan (5/64).

Squaring the series in style – Second Test, Wellington, 2006-07

Sri Lanka bounced back from a five-wicket defeat at Christchurch to record their second Test win in New Zealand, thereby ensuring a 1-1 result in the two-match series. Kumar Sangakkara, who had scored 100* out of 170 in the second innings of the first Test, again delivered a stellar effort. The stylish southpaw shared in a fifth-wicket partnership of 121 with Chamara Silva (61) after Sri Lanka had slipped to 81/4, and went on to smash an unbeaten 156 out of a total of 268.

New Zealand managed only 130 in reply, with fast bowler Lasith Malinga (5/68) and Muralitharan (4/31) sharing the spoils. Silva helped cement Sri Lanka’s lead with an unbeaten 152 – his only Test hundred – that steered the total from 100/4 to 365, even as left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori toiled his way to 7/130. Muralitharan completed a ten-wicket match haul with figures of 6/87, which condemned New Zealand to 286 and sealed Sri Lanka’s win by 217 runs.

The Williamson and Watling show – Second Test, Wellington, 2014-15

Sri Lanka’s quest to level the two-match series began brightly, as their pace attack, with Nuwan Pradeep (4/63) at the forefront, limited New Zealand to 221. Kane Williamson gave a glimpse of what was to follow, top-scoring with 69. Sangakkara then continued his liking for New Zealand with a glorious 203 – he rescued Sri Lanka from a dire 78/5 by putting on 130 for the sixth wicket with Dinesh Chandimal (67), before expertly shepherding the tail to take the total to 356.

When New Zealand lost their fifth second-innings wicket in the second session of the third day, they were ahead by only 24 runs. The spunky wicketkeeper Bradley-John Watling joined Williamson at this juncture, and together they staged one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Test history. The pair batted for a staggering 111.3 overs to stitch an unbroken partnership of 365 – a new Test record for the sixth wicket – that led to a declaration at 524/5 late on the fourth day.

Williamson batted for more than ten hours to finish with a career-best 242*, while Watling proved the ideal foil with 142*. Incidentally, Watling was part of the previous-best sixth-wicket partnership as well – he had famously put on 352 with Brendon McCullum against India at the same venue less than a year earlier. This epic by the two Ws left Sri Lanka with a target of 390, and despite an unbeaten 62 from Lahiru Thirimanne, the visitors could muster no more than 196.

An incredible implosion – Second Test, Hamilton, 2015-16

Less than a year later, Sri Lanka were back in New Zealand, and again lost both the Tests. They had put themselves in a position of strength in the second Test at Seddon Park, only to squander it all in frustrating fashion. A fifth-wicket stand of 138 between captain Angelo Mathews (77) and Milinda Siriwardene (62) propelled Sri Lanka to a competitive 292, after which an exhilarating display from paceman Dushmantha Chameera (5/47) handed them a vital lead of 55.

Openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis ran up a stand of 71 to extend the lead to 126, before the former’s dismissal to Doug Bracewell opened the floodgates. In a shocking collapse against the hosts’ pace battery, led by Tim Southee (4/26), Sri Lanka lost all ten wickets for 62 in just 13.5 overs. Chameera (4/68) reduced New Zealand to 11/2 in their chase of 189, but Williamson’s calm 108* guided them to a five-wicket win in the final session of the fourth day.



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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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