by Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Sri Lanka's 23-year-old left-arm spinner Niroshan Bandaratilake gave Test cricket's newest venue a memorable baptism when he took three wickets for 10 runs off 15 overs to have New Zealand on the ropes at 96 for 4 wickets on the first day of the secod cricket Test at the Galle International Stadium yesterday. Bandaratilake dismissed Bryan Young for 46 and nightwatchman Daniel Vettori for nought in one over before New Zealand came off for bad light ten minutes from the close of a rain-curtailed day.
Play did not commence until 2.45 p.m. due to heavy overnight rain leaving the surrounding areas very wet. Despite the delay which lopped off three hours and 35 minujtes a large crowd was present for the historic occasion, after Sports Minister S. B. Dissanayake had officially declared open the new Test ground.
New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming won the toss for the second time in the series and decided to bat first, but found his team two down for 21 by the 17th over.
Bandaratilake repeated his feat of taking wicket in his first over when he had Matthew Horne caught behind by Romesh Kaluwitharana for one with a ball that bounced awkwardly to surprise the batsman.
Bandaratilake had taken a wicket with his fifth ball in Test cricket when he made his debut in the first Test at the R. Premadasa Stadium last week, which Sri Lanka lost by 167 runs.
Fleming who made a career best 176 not out in that match, fell for 14 when he went back to a Kumara Dharmasena delivery was trapped in front of the wicket.
Young whose form on the tour has been disappointing and Nathan Astle steadied the innings with a 69-run third wicket stand before Bandaratilake coming back for a new spell separated them.
Young lucky to survive a chance at 44 when Marvan Atapattu put down a chance at silly point off Muralitharan was caught off the outside edge of his bat by Sanath Jayasuriya at slip two runs later. He batted 183 minutes and hit six fours.
Vettori lasted just three balls before pushing the ball into Hashan Tillekeratne's hands at forward shortleg for nought. Astle battled it our for 132 minutes to remain undefeated on 30 with Craig McMillan on two.
Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga concentrated on an all-spin attack on a pitch assisting the spinners, giving only seven overs to his solitary fast bowler Pramodya Wickremasinghe.
Day 2: New Zealand 122/5 - Niroshan returns excellent figures
by Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Sri Lanka captured the important wicket of Craig McMillan for 13, but may find themselves having a race against the clock to force a win due to the adverse weather conditions prevailing at the Galle International Stadium.
Only 55 minutes play was possible on the second day yesterday in the final session which saw New Zealand take their overnight total from 96 for 4 to 122 for 5 before the players came off for bad light, five minutes ahead of the scheduled close.
Overnight rain once again prevented a prompt start to the day, leaving a large section of the outfield soggy and slippery, and dangerous for play. Even hot sunshine failed to dry out the area until 5.30 p.m. when with the assistance of the ground staff sawdust was used to cover the hazardous areas.
To compound matters for the ground staff, the super sopper machine owned by the Sri lanka Cricket Board broke down, further handicapping the mopping up operations. Valuable time was spent in trying to get it repaired.
Left-arm spinner Niroshan Bandaratilake made further inroads into the New Zealand batting when he induced McMillan, a first Test century-maker to play onto a delivery that came to him faster than he anticipated.
New Zealand lost that wicket at 110, and Bandaratilake finished the day with excellent figures of 4 for 20 off 24 overs.
Nathan Astle batted throughout the rain reduced session to carry his overnight score from 30 to 42 not out in 187 minutes of batting having hit one six and three fours.
Adam Parore who joined him at the fall of McMillan's wicket was undefeated on three.
Day 3: Good day for Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka enjoyed one of their best day's on the field in the on-going series when they dismissed New Zealand for 193 and then replied with 197 for 3 wickets at the end of the third day of the second cricket Test at the Galle International Stadium.
Sri Lanka's heroes yesterday were off-spinner Kumara Dharmasena who returned Test career best figures of 6 for 72 and one-drop batsman Mahela Jayawardene, who has played superbly to come within 12 runs of a maiden Test hundred.
The 21-year-old right-hander who made twin fifties in the first Test which Sri Lanka lost by 167 runs to trail 0-1 in the 3-match series, was undefeated on a stroke-filled innings of 88 made in 177 minutes with eight fours.
Partnering Jayewardene in an unfinished fourth wicket stand of 67 in 71 minutes is skipper Arjuna Ranatunga who has made 33 not out off 37 balls inclusive of a six and a four.
Sri Lanka went in search of quick runs despite losing Sanath Jayasuriya for 21, Marvan Atapattu for 36 and Aravinda de Silva for 10, and at the end of the day find themselves ahead by four runs on the first innings with seven wickets in hand and two days remaining to force a result.
New Zealand's first innings was terminated swiftly by Dharmasena whose figures improved on his previous best of 6 for 99 against Pakistan at the Sara Stadium in 1993-94. It was also the best by a Sri Lankan bowler against New Zealand improving on Chaminda Vaas' 6 for 87 at Dunedin in 1994-95.
Dharmasena, overlooked for successive series against Zimbabwe at home and against South Africa away, came back in riproaring form to capture 5 for 33 in a 11-over spell that saw New Zealand crash from their overnight 122 for 5 to 193 all out, 36 minutes after lunch.
Left-arm spinner Niroshan Bandaratilake took the other four wickets for 47 runs in 38 tidy overs, leaving Sri Lanka's leading wicket-taker Muthiah Muralitharan with a rare occasion of going wicketless.
New Zealand's top scorer was Nathan Astle who after making 53 in 207 minutes with a six and four fours, became the first of Dharmasena's five victims of the day.
In comparison to the first two days, the weather was very kind with the excepting of two short interruptions which topped off 22 minutes.
Day 4: Kiwis struggling
by Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Kiwis still 36 runs behind with just five wickets in hand.
TWO of Sri Lanka's new 'finds', 21-year-old Mahela Jayawardene and 23-year-old Niroshan Bandaratilake have placed their country in a position to beat New Zealand and square the 3-Test series at Test cricket's newest venue, the Galle International Stadium.
Jayewardene hit a magnificent maiden Test century (167) to enable Sri Lanka total 323 and gain a useful first innings lead of 130 runs. Then, Bandaratilake with his left-arm spin, crashed through the New Zealand batting, taking three wickets for 27 runs to reduce the visitors to 95 for 5 at the end of the fourth day of the second cricket Test yesterday.
New Zealand still require a further 36 runs with five wickets in hand to make Sri Lanka bat again. Today is the final day of the Test.
Bandaratilake who took 4 for 47 off 38 overs in the first innings made early inroads into their batting, getting the wicket of Matthew Horne for the third time in the series, and then going onto add the scalps of Bryan Young and Craig McMillan.
Off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan who went wicketless in the first innings, claimed the important of Stephen Fleming, whose 176 not out set up New Zealand's 167-run victory in the first Test at the R. Premadasa Stadium last week.
The New Zealand captain on this occasion made only 10 before going back to a delivery that shot through low to trap him in front of the wicket.
Part-time off-spinner Aravinda de Silva picked up the wicket of first innings top scorer Nathan Astle for 13 when the batsman attempted to cut a straight delivery and was bowled.
Adam Parore (25) and Chris Cairns (16) survived till the close, but with the pitch taking increasing spin, the New Zealanders have a tough task ahead of them to survive the rest of the final day.
The day, however, belonged to Jayewardene. The stylish right-hander scored a century that was full of class and one that came from the top drawer. Resuming at his personal score on 88, Jayewardene moved to his maiden century in the seventh over of the day, by flicking Daniel Vettori of his legs to square left for a single.
Jayewardene was elated with his effort and held his arms aloft in triumph, acknowledging the ovation he got from the big holiday crowd that was present yesterday.
His hundred took him 197 minutes and 171 balls and comprised 10 fours. Jayewardene continued to flay the New Zealand bowlers despite the fall of wickets at the other end, and went to his 150 in 289 minutes off 233 balls with 17 fours, before finally being dismissed for 167, having seen Sri Lanka past the 300-run mark.
Chris Harris, the New Zealand all-rounder was involved in bringing a swift end to the Sri Lanka innings after lunch, when he ran out three batsman, held a catch and took the prize wicket of Jayewardene by having him lbw. Overall, Jayewardene batted 335 minutes and faced 270 balls hitting 18 fours in an unblemished knock, which contributed to more than half his team's total.
Vettori picked up four wickets for 88 runs, but came for some harsh treatment from Jayewardene. Paul Wiseman (2 for 95) and Chris Harris (1 for 56) were the other successful wicket-takers for New Zealand.
Day 5: Mahela's match-winning effort earns accolades
by Sa'adi Thawfeeq
``Man of the Match'' Mahela Jayawardene came in for high praise from both captains for his match-winning knock of 167 which paved the way for Sri Lanka beating New Zealand by an innings and 16 runs in the second cricket Test and squaring the 3-match series one-all at Test cricket's newest venue, the Galle International Stadium yesterday.
New Zealand beginning the fifth and final day at 94 for 5, lost their remaining wickets for just 20 runs in 43 minutes to be all out for 114. They trailed Sri Lanka in the first innings by 130 runs.
Left-arm spinner Niroshan Bandaratilake began the New Zealand decline by having Chris Cairne caught off bat and pad by Hashan Tillekeratne off the third ball of the morning without any addition to the overnight total.
Parore - defiant knock
The rest of the batting simply folded without much resistance leaving Adam Parore undefeated with a defiant 32 not out scored in 111 minutes. Bandaratilake finished with his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket, playing in only his second match. With four wickets in the first innings, he had excellent match figures of 9 for 83.
Off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan who went wicketless in the first innings, captured two wickets yesterday including that of last man Shayne O'Connor for a 'duck'. He proved an ideal foil to Bandaratilake taking 3 for 24. Kumara Dharmasena who took 6 for 72 in the first innings failed to take a wicket.
``Mahela batted really well, especially on a track like this, with the ball spinning and jumping a little bit from the third day. He batted well in the first Test, but threw it away after getting two fifties. He has realised how good he is and that he can get hundreds every time. His century kept our batting going,'' said Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga.
``It was really a good team effort supported by Mahela's batting plus the spinners. We played really well to come back in the series,'' said Ranatunga.
``In a way winning a Test match with one particular batsman getting runs is very encouraging. There are so many senior cricketers like Aravinda, Sanath, Hashan, Marvan and myself who are due to get runs,'' he said.
Tillekeratna - five catches
Ranatunga also praised the fielding of Hashan Tillekeratne in the close in position at bat pad. He held five catches in the match.
``His fielding gave a lot of confidence to the spinners. He grabbed the half chances and made it look very easy. Everyone knows that he is a very good fielder, unfortunately he couldn't get a big score. He is a bonus in the side for his batting and especially, the fielding,'' said Ranatunga.
``We were outplayed in most facets and in particular, the batting of Jayewardene. We thought he was pretty outstanding. He played well and had a good defence, but we gave too many loose balls. We gave away too many four balls to Jayewardene and that is where he got his runs,'' said New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming.
``We had a lot of turn, but we didn't bowl in the right place, long enough. Daniel Vettori is a very good young spinner. He perhaps bowled a bit too loose giving away too many four balls and taking the pressure off. We bowled a lot better the next day and got seven for 123. That's the way it should have been throughout the game. Three for 197 was not good enough,'' said Fleming. Club level pitch
The Kiwi captain was critical of the pitch that saw spinners claim all 26 wickets to fall to the bowlers.
``The pitch was not totally satisfactory. It's about club level. It's not Test level at this stage. But we can't really gripe too much. We were a little disappointed in most of the way we played on it. I don't say we should have won, but we should have competed a little bit better than we did,'' said Fleming.
``It was a 200-250 wicket all the way through. Hopefully, 150 at the end of the innings would have been hard to get,'' he said.
Fleming expressed confidence that his team will come back in the third Test starting at the SSC on June 10 and win the series.
``Arjuna's got different ideas. I don't know whether he was misquoted or not. He was pretty outspoken about the bowling of our side. We've beaten them three times in a row and we are very confident of beating them again,'' said Fleming.
Yesterday's victory was Sri Lanka's third over New Zealand in 17 Tests and their 12th overall in 85 Tests. It was the tenth Test victory under the leadership of Ranatunga, who has now led his country in 54 Tests.
Decisive fitness test for Doull today
The New Zealand team management will deicide today on the fate of fast bowler Simon Doull's presence for the rest of the Sri Lanka tour.
Doull (28) aggravated a groin injury in the first Test at the R. Premadasa Stadium last week and did not play in Galle.
``The injury is not looking too good, but we haven't made a decision yet. The groin injury is causing him a lot of pain when he is running,'' said New Zealand team physio Mark Harrison.
Doull will be subject to a fitness Test today before a final decision is taken.
``The injury started in Australia early this year. He has injured a different place in the groin in the hamstring area. It is something of chronic injury and a recurring one as I see it,'' said Harrison. Groin injuries are very niggling and they can recur. They do take a long time to heal,'' he said.