1st Test: New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Colombo

Reports from The Daily News

27-31 May 1998

Day 1: Spinners put Brakes on the Kiwis

by Sa'adi Thawfeeq

New Zealand coach Steve Rixon's boast of getting the Kiwis off to a flying start like the Indians did to the Australians never materialised as the Sri Lankan spinners led by Muthiah Muralitharan put a break on their batting by capturing seven wickets for 282 runs on the first day of the first Test played at the R. Premadasa Stadium yesterday.

Only skipper Stephen Fleming and wicket-keeper Adam Parore crossed the fifty mark, as Muralitharan with 3 for 87, Ruwan Kalpage with 2 for 49 and debutant Niroshan Bandaratilake with a first over wicket, kept the free-scoring New Zealand batsmen in check, on a slow and grassless surface.

New Zealand opted to bat first, after Fleming had called correctly, but were pushed back by two short sharp showers in the first two sessions that saw play go on till 6.30 pm yesterday.

Left-arm spinner Bandaratilake making his debut, became only the fourth Sri Lankan bowler to take a wicket in his first over in Test cricket when he dismissed Matthew Horne for 15. The New Zealand opener was beaten by the arm ball that went straight through his defences after he and Bryan Young had put on 25 for the first wicket.

It was Bandaratilake's fifth ball in the big league, and he joined three other fast-medium bowlers who had made a memorable beginnings to their Test careers - Saliya Ahangama who dismissed Mohamed Azharuddin with his fourth ball at the Sara Stadium in 1985-86, Kosala Kuruppuarachchi who dismissed Mudassar Nazar with his third ball at the CCC grounds in 1985-86, and Dulip Liyanage who dismissed Tom Moody with his third ball at the Sara Stadium in 1992-93.

Left-hander Fleming except for a rare blemish when he was almost caught at short mid wicket by his vis-a-vis Arjuna Ranatunga at 31, batted fluently to hit 12 fours in his score of 78 made in 218 minutes. It was his 17th Test fifty and his fourth against Sri Lanka.

After his dismissal at 188, Parore, who has been in good nick with the bat on the tour, held the innings together in three late partnerships with Chris Cairns and Chris Harris that raised the total by 81 runs. Scoring off only the loose deliveries, Parore struck eight fours to remain unbeaten on 67 at the close having batted 170 minutes, for his 11th fifty in Test cricket.

Nathan Astle and Chris Cairns were both out to poor shots attempting to force the pace on the slow surface, while Young fell to a fine diving catch taken off the inside edge by wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana.

New Zealand suffered a double blow in the middle of their innings when they lost Astle and Craig McMillan within three balls of each other. Astle fell to a good running catch by Mahela Jayawardene at mid wicket and McMillan was trapped lbw on the back foot.

Sri Lanka were rewarded with the wicket of Chris Harris late in the day when they took the second new ball after 90 overs. Wickremasinghe bowled a superb outswinger (inswinger to the left-hander) to have him lbw.

Day 2: Lanka's top order fails again

by Sa'adi Thawfeeq

Sri Lanka's top order batting which skipper Arjuna Ranatunga was hoping would come good after the debacle in South Africa, failed once again and they were left struggling at 251 for 7 wickets in reply to New Zealand's 305 at the end of the second day of the first cricket Test at the R. Premadasa Stadium yesterday.

The joy of Sri Lanka's ace spinner wrapping up the New Zealand first innings with his 13th five-wicket haul in 39 Tests fizzled out inside the first 40 minutes of the Sri Lankan first innings, when Chris Cairns, who bowls very much less these days, because of a recurring back injury, sent back Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu in his opening spell of five overs.

Atapattu went without scoring after five balls, and Jayasuriya, whose previous Test innings on this ground was a monumental 340 against India last year, survived 19 balls for 10 runs. Both were caught at the wicket by Adam Parore.

Mahela Jayawardene who has taken over the No. 3 position from Roshan Mahanama batted authoritatively to complete his second Test fifty (his first on debut was also made on this ground against India last year), and in the process forge a useful third wicket stand of 80 with Aravinda de Silva, before both were dismissed within four runs of each other.

De Silva made a passive 37 in 98 minutes before hitting a full toss off part-time bowler Craig McMillan to mid-on. Jayewardene was also caught in the same position when he mistimed an on-drive to provide debutant off-spinner Paul Wiseman with his maiden Test wicket.

Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga and Romesh Kaluwitharana gave the innings momentum with a 101-run fifth wicket stand, until Cairns returning for a new spell separated them. Although their concentrations were disturbed with a 49-minute break for rain, the pair batted well, till Cairns induced Ranatunga into a false stroke. The left-hander was bowled by a slow yorker for 49 scored with the help of one six and six fours.

New Zealand came back after Ranatunga's dismissal to capture the wickets of Ruwan Kalpage for six, and Kaluwitharana's for 72. Kalpage was bowled around his legs by Wiseman, and Kaluwitharana, who had hit 13 fours in a stay of 149 minutes lost his cool and coming down the track to Daniel Vettori, was beaten by the flight and bowled. At 64 he completed 1,000 runs in Tests.

New Zealand's last three wickets added 23 runs before they were all out having batted for 31 minutes. After Pramodya Wickremasinghe had removed Adam Parore for 67 without any addition to the overnight total of 282 for 7, with the delivery of the morning, Muralitharan cleaned up the New Zealand tail with a spell of two wickets for one run off six balls, to finish with figures of 5 for 90. Wiseman was unfortunate to be given out when TV replays indicated that the ball had come off his front pad to silly point fielder Marvan Atapattu. South African umpire Rudi Koertzen consulted the third umpire to determine the fairness of the catch, when the ball had not come off the bat.

Day 3: Fleming marvellous unbeaten 106

by Sa'adi Thawfeeq

The Sri Lanka Cricket Board chief curator's fear that the R. Premadasa Stadium pitch would turn into a good batting track became a reality when New Zealand buoyed by a marvellous unbeaten century by captain Stephen Fleming took control of the first cricket Test against Sri Lanka at the R. Premadasa Stadium yesterday.

Fleming overcame oppressive heat conditions to hit one six and 11 fours in a fine display of batting for 298 minutes to be undefeated on 106 by stumps on the third day with New Zealand on 260 for 3 wickets.

New Zealand who gained a narrow first innings lead of 20 by dismissing Sri Lanka for 285, now enjoy an overall lead of 280 with seven wickets intact. They find themselves in a position to call the shots with two more days remaining in the match.

The 23-year-old left-hander was kept going throughout his innings by team physio Mark Harrison's frequent visits to the middle to revive him with dehydration pills, staminate drinks and a bag of ice to overcome the hot and humid conditions.

Fleming reached his century which was only his second in a 35-test career, and his first as captain, three overs before stumps with an on driven single to long-on, facing 216 balls. His previous hundred was 129 against England at Auckland in 1996-97.

He had only one moment of alarm, when at 91, he was nearly run out by wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana whose back-hand flick at the wickets missed by a few inches. Otherwise, Fleming who made 78 good runs in the first innings was in total command, hitting only the loose deliveries and not taking any undue risks.

Fleming found splendid support from Craig McMillan, who livened up the final session with a string of boundaries that saw New Zealand run up 131 runs. McMillan struck one six and eight fours to remain unbeaten on 64 at the close scored off 76 balls. With Fleming, he has so far added exactly 100 runs in an unfinished stand for the fourth wicket.

Nathan Astle who was unhappy to be given out caught behind for 34, helped Fleming add 92 for the third wicket, after Sri Lanka had captured the wickets of Bryan Young for 11 and Matthew Horne for 35.

Sri Lanka's first innings lasted a further 38 minutes yesterday, during which period they added 34 runs to their overnight total of 251 for 7.

Pramodya Wickramasinghe and Niroshan Bandaratilake carried their eight wicket partnership to 476 before left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori separated them with a two-wicket burst in his first over for the day.

Wickremeasinghe going back was trapped lbw for 27, and five balls later, Vettori bowled Muralitharan for a duck to end with figures of 3 for 56. The innings was terminated when Bandaratilake was run out for 20 attempting a second run, by a direct throw from the outfield. Chris Cairne who made the initial breakthrough for New Zealand on Thursday, finished with 3 for 59.

Day 4: Kiwis takes stranglehold in First Test

by Ranjan Anandappa

Fleming and McMillan hit career best innings.

NEW ZEALAND took the stranglehold in the first cricket Test against Sri Lanka after their skipper Stephen Fleming (176 n.o) and Craig McMillan (142) hit their career best Test innings producing an invigorating 240-run stand for the fourth wicket, on the penultimate day at the R. Premadasa Stadium, Khettarama Sunday.

Facing the difficult task of scoring 465 runs to win off minimum 135 overs Sri Lanka were 111 for 2 wickets when the Kiwi spinner Paul Wiseman struck two grievous blows sending back Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu in quick succession, after the openers had a stand of 70 runs for the first wicket. Jayasuriya and Atapattu gave the side a purple start with their first 50 runs coming off 8.5 overs, but with the introduction of spinners the scoring rate dropped rapidly.

Spinners Paul Wiseman and Daniel Vettori flighted the ball extremely well and managed to get enough spin out of the placid pitch to bring about some doubts in the minds of the batsmen.

Sri Lanka still needs 354 runs to win with 8 wickets in hand and a minimum of 90 overs today. To get the match back in the correct perspective, it needs a couple of batsmen to play a long and weighty innings. Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, Romesh Kaluvitharana and Ruwan Kalpage are the only experienced campaigners and no doubt it will be a gigantic task ahead of them today.

New Zealand continuing from their overnight 260 for 3 made their intentions clear in the morning that quick runs is their priority. They did it in style and mercilessly to a weak attack, accumulating runs with fluency and ease.

Craig McMillan, a 21-year-old playing only in his sixth Test with a century behind him against Zimbabwe atoned for his first innings failures batting with ease and distinction for a player of his maturity. He handled the spinners well using his feet matching his more experienced skipper Fleming. McMillan joined Fleming at 3 for 160 and forged the vital fourth wicket stand to turn the flow of the game.

Fleming and McMillan scored leisurely against an attack that looked impotent and the fourth wicket stand between them looked menacing.

Fleming had a reprieve in the morning where he should have been run out at the wicket keeper's end and McMillan (108) too was dropped by Muralitheran who had to cover a lot of ground from deep mid wicket to the mid on region when the score was 341 for 3. Thereafter the pair posted the 200 run stand between them for the fourth wicket in 286 balls. Fleming played a truly fine innings and reached his 150 run mark facing 296 balls with 15 fours and a six. New Zealand added 121 runs in 28 overs with Fleming and McMillan in full retreat and went for lunch with an overall lead of 401 runs with 7 wickets in tact.

With the dismissals of McMillan, Parore and Chris Cairns they decided to close their innings after an hour's batting, after lunch.

Pramodya Wickremasinghe and Malinga Bandara bowled only 15 overs between them and the bulk of the bowling was done by Muralitheran, Bandaratileka and Sanath Jayasuriya. Although Muralitheran conceded 139 runs in his 36 overs he remained the chief wicket taker with 4 scalps.

Day 5: New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by 167 runs

by Sa'adi Thawfeeq

We lacked a top order batsman, says Arjuna.

Sri Lanka's top order batting once more crumbled to pressure to contribute towards their 167-run loss to New Zealand in the first cricket Test which ended at the R. Premadasa Stadium yesterday.

Set an improbable target of 465 for victory in a minimum of 134 overs, Sri Lanka were bowled out for 297, 44 minutes into the final session of the fifth day after being 194 for 2 at lunch.

The dismissal of Aravinda de Silva for 71, to the first ball after the lunch break triggered a batting collapse where four wickets fell for 45 runs. De Silva going back to left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori was in ``no man's land'' and was caught plumb in front of the wicket.

The 19-year-old left-arm spinner struck again to remove skipper Arjuna Ranatunga for nine-clinging on to a return catch and, in a post lunch spell that brought him three wickets for 22 runs off 53 balls, he also removed Ruwan Kalpage for 16 by having him caught off his glove and pad at slip.

These were the most telling blows, that Sri Lanka suffered, because after that it was a question of what time when they would be all out.

Auckland's 28-year-old off-spinner Paul Wiseman who was the only uncapped player in the tour party to Sri Lanka, marked his Test debut by capturing 5 wickets for 82 runs. He took 2 for 61 in the first innings to finish with seven in the match, but the 'Man of the Match' award went to New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming for his career best knock of 176, which laid the foundation for his team to set up the imposing victory target.

``I would put down our victory to us playing extremely good cricket, throughout the Test, there wasn't a day we had a bad session. We just succeeded by applying pressure on the Sri Lankan batsmen,'' said Fleming after the Test.

``The Sri Lankan batting has been under pressure after their overseas series in South Africa and in the first innings here. There was a lot of pressure on the top order to get a substantial score. They played pretty well in the morning, and we saw what pressure can do in the second session'', said Fleming.

The New Zealand captain rated Wiseman's performance very highly ``He bowled with control and he bowled aggressively, which I think is something that the Sri Lankan spinners didn't do enough. They allowed our batsmen to get on top, whereas Wiseman didn't. There was some question marks against him on his international performances, but he has come through it pretty well and proved to everyone that he is an international bowler,'' said Fleming.

Fleming rated Craig McMillan's century as ``superb'' and said: ``He was youthful exuberance to the fore. The way he hits the ball, it is so clean and refreshing and good to watch.''

``When the innings you play contributes to getting the ``man-of-the-match' award. I think its important. It's the captain's duty to lead from the front. That's what I have started to do. You do your job well, you get satisfaction out of it,'' said Fleming on his own contribution of 176 not out.

Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga put down his team's defeat to bad batting. He said the match went out of their grasp in the first innings, when they were bowled out for 285.

``We should have had something over 400 runs,'' he said. Ranatunga was of the opinion that he was lacking a top order batsman in the side and that he needed to fill that vacuum for the next Test starting at Galle on Wednesday.

``Unfortunately before the start of the series two of our senior batsmen were out of form. One of them have got some runs in the mercantile matches,'' said Ranatunga. In the absence of Roshan Mahanama and Hashan Tillekeratne, Mahela Jayawardene and Ruwan Kalpage played in the first Test. While Jayewardene contributed twin fifties in the match, Kalpage played as a batsman made only 6 and 16.

Ranatunga did not rate New Zealand's bowling very highly and expressed confidence that his side could square the series at Galle by playing positively.

Doull in doubt

New Zealand fast bowler Simon Doull is in doubt for the second Test after a hamstring injury. He bowled only 3 overs and did not take the field yesterday.

Source: The Daily News

Contributed by CricInfo Management

Date-stamped : 01 Jun1998 - 06:33