by Sa'adi Thawfeeq
New Zealand's big made all-rounder Chris Cairns took his one hundredth Test wicket and entered the record books to put his side in command on the opening day of the decisive third and final cricket Test against Sri Lanka at the SSC grounds yesterday.
When bad light brought an end to play four overs before the close, on a day interrupted by rain Sri Lanka were struggling at 200 for eight wickets with Cairns finishing with figures of 4 for 58.
Cairns, who turns 28 on Saturday broke the back of the Sri Lankan batting when he accounted for the wickets of Mahela Jayawardene and Aravinda de Silva in the first over after lunch.
He gave New Zealand the initial breakthrough by having Sanath Jayasuriya caught in the slips off an outside edge for 13, in a rain-restricted first session, which saw Sri Lanka win the toss for the first time in the series and choosing to bat first.
Jayewardene, who made a maiden Test century at Galle was out to the first ball of Cairns' post lunch over, gloving a lifting delivery to wicket keeping Adam Parore after he had made only 13.
De Silva straight drove for four his second ball, but was out two balls later hooking to long leg to give Cairns his one hundredth wicket in his 33rd Test. The occasion provided the first instance of father and son taking one hundred wickets in Test cricket.
Chris Cairns' father, Lance Cairns took 130 wickets in 43 Tests for New Zealand between 1974 and 1985. Chris Cairns also became only New Zealand's ninth bowler to take a century of Test wickets. The others were Sir Richard Hadlee (431 wickets), Danny Morrison (160), Ewan Chatfield (123), Richard Collinge (116), Bruce Taylor (111), John Bracewell (102) and Richard Motz (100).
It was bad luck and bad batting that contributed to Sri Lanka's dismal performance yesterday. Jayasuriya, De Silva and Marvan Atapattu were out to strokes of indiscretion. Arjuna Ranatunga was unlucky to find himself out of the crease when a powerful drive by Atapattu off Craig McMillan deflected off his hands onto the wicket as the bowler made an attempt to take the catch.
Atapattu was out top edging a sweep to short fine-leg. He made 48 in 178 minutes which was Sri Lanka's top score for the day. Hashan Tillekeratne scored 43 in 158 minutes and Romesh Kaluwitharana (28) put together the best stand for Sri Lanka adding 54 for the sixth wicket, before McMillan coming for a late spell, dismissed them both seven runs of each other.
Cairns rounded off a good day for him and New Zealand by sending back Kumara Dharmasena for 11 with the second new ball, after the players had returned from a 22-minute stoppage for rain.
The day throughout was overcast and Cairns and McMillan made good use of the conditions to prize out eight Sri Lankan wickets, on a pitch that was firm but with very little grass.
While Sri Lanka fielded an unchanged side, New Zealand brought in Craig Spearman and Mark Priest for Chris Harris and Shayne O'Connor. Play in the first session was restricted to one hour, due to rain delaying the start.
Day 2: Useful lead of 13 runs by Lanka
by Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Skipper Stephen Fleming played a lone-hand as Sri Lanka bowlers spearheaded by part-time trundler Aravinda de Silva ran through the New Zealand batting to dismiss them for 193 by the close of the second day of the decisive third and final cricket Test played at the SSC grounds yesterday.
Sri Lanka who were bowled out early in the day for 206, thus gained a useful first innings lead of 13 runs. Both teams are deadlocked on one win each after two matches in the three-Test series.
Sri Lanka would have gained a much a bigger lead had Kumara Dharmasena not dropped a simple return catch from Fleming when he was on six. The tall left-hander made full use of that lapse to keep his side in the game, batting for a total of 316 minutes to make a top score of 78 with eight fours.
Fleming's defiant innings was ended by Pramodaya Wickremasinghe who bowled him off his pads, four minutes before the scheduled close. Fleming faced 232 balls and as long as he was at the wicket, New Zealand who will have to bat last on the turning pitch had a chance of gaining a first innings lead which is so vital to them.
De Silva finished with a career best 3 for 30 to put the breaks on the New Zealand batting when they looked at one time like dominating the bowling. Taking over to complete an unfinished over from Mutiah Muralitharan, de Silva went on to take three wickets for 18 runs off 52 balls.
He put an end to a threatening fourth wicket partnership of 64 by having Matthew Home caught at short-leg for 35 and then went on to add the wickets of Craig McMillan and Adam Parore. Home was unlucky to be given out off bat and pad by ICC umpire V. K. Ramaswamy of India when TV replays showed the ball had actually come off his pads.
De Silva's previous best figures were 3 for 39 against South-Africa at the same venue five years ago. Parore and Mark Priest helped Fleming in useful stands of 30 and 38, but Sri Lanka's spinners kept a stranglehold on the batting not allowing them to get on top.
Muralitharan who had to return to the pavilion briefly for medical attention on his bowling hand after attempting to stop a hot drive from Fleming, returned to take two late order wickets, but conceded 60 runs for it.
Sri Lanka's first innings lasted 12 minutes before they were all out for 206. Chris who picked up his 100th wicket on the first day, ended the innings by having Muralitharan caught by Nathan Astle for one to claim his fifth five-wicket haul in Test cricket. Wickremasinghe remained unbeaten on 24.
Day 3: Kiwis need 272 to win
by Saa'di Thawfeeq
Sri Lanka's constantly failing top order batting was put to shame by the last wicket pair of Romesh Kaluwitharana and Muthiah Muralitharan who set up a new tenth wicket record against all countries by adding 71 runs in 62 minutes and left New Zealand the tough task of making the highest total in this low scoring match - 296 runs for victory in over two days to win the third and final cricket Test and with it the 3-match series at the SSC grounds yesterday.
Both teams are deadlocked at 1-all with New Zealand winning the first Test by 167 runs and Sri Lanka, the second by an innings and 16 runs.
Sri Lanka who were at one stage on 140 for six wickets were finally all out for 282, half an hour before the close. New Zealand survived the remaining six overs to finish the third day at 10 without loss.
They have two full days in which to score the required 272 runs with all ten second innings wickets in hand on a pitch which has been assisting the spinners considerably.
The Kiwis at on stage of the day had Sri Lanka by the throat when left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori made early inroads into the top order to reduce them to 26 for 4.
Arjuna Ranatunga and Hashan Tilekeratne staged a recovery with a fifth wicket stand that realised 102 runs before Vettori once again came into the scene to remove Tillekeratne, Pramodya Wickremasinghe and Niroshan Bandaratillake to finish with Test career best figures of 6 for 64. It beat his previous best of 5 for 84 also against Sri Lanka at Hamilton in 1996-97.
With his fourth wicket of the innings that of Tillekeratne, the 19 - year-old Vettori claimed his fiftieth Test wicket playing in his 14th Test.
Ranatunga scored 64 in 115 minutes with nine fours and Tillekeratne, 40 in 97 minutes with seven fours.
New Zealand's chances of keeping themselves to a reasonable total to chase in the fourth innings on a pitch taking appreciable turn and bounce, were thwarted by Sri Lanka's last wicket pair.
Kaluwitharana and Muralitharan frustrated the New Zealand bowlers by taking a record 71 runs in 62 minutes which erased Sri Lanka's previous highest against all countries of 64 by Ravi Ratnayeke and Grame Labrooy against England at Lord's in 1988. The partnership was also the best against New Zealand for the last wicket beating the 60 runs between Vinothen John and Jayantha Amerasinghe at Kandy in 1983-84.
Kaluwitharana who was missed by the usually reliable safe hands of Bryan Young at slip off Mark Priest before he had entered double figures, made New Zealand dearly pay for the lapse by going onto make a top score of 88 in 170 minutes comprising eight fours.
Muralitharan showing a lot of pluck was left unbeaten on 26 when Kaluwitharana was finally out, 12 short of a century when he was adjudged lbw to left-arm spinner Mark Priest.
Day 4: Sri Lanka take Test series with emphatic 164-run win
By Ranjan Anandappa
Spinners Muttiah Muralitharan (5 for30) and Niroshan Bandaratilake (4 for 52) in twin harness saw Sri Lanka take the Test series 2-1 after beating New Zealand by 164 runs in the third and final Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club grounds yesterday.
New Zealand, requiring 296 runs to win with all the time in the world, were all out for 131 about 45 minutes prior to the tea interval.
The Kiwis began the day with 10 for no loss and their openers Bryan Young and Craig Spearman set about their task without much difficulty with a composed start early in the day with a 44 - run stand. But New Zealand fell apart in the face of the Lankan spinners as they whistled through the rest of the batting. They were 80 for 3 at lunch but lost the remaining seven wickets within the space of 18.3 overs for 51 runs. Bandaratilake taking four of them and Muralitharan three in a sensational post lunch session.
On a pitch that made the ball alternatively pop up or scurry along low at times, New Zealand's resistance again crumbled against spin in a low scoring match dominated by the spinners of either side.
Bryan Young triggered the batting slump when he was out stumped to a third umpires decision in Muralitharan's first over and thereafter, it was apparent that New Zealand suddenly were in a pressure situation.
New Zealand's biggest blow was the early dismissal of Stephen Fleming when Dharmasena trapped him lbw. His exit ushered in a period of crisis for the side which the Kiwis really did not recover thereafter. Craig Spearman was spectacularly caught by Muralitharan off his own bowling and also accounted for Nathan Astle's dismissal to take the second catch off his own bowling.
Then Bandaratilake switching ends, carved through the middle order to take the wickets of Adam Parore, Mark Priest and Chris Cairns in a good effort for a young left arm spinner playing only in his third Test match.
Cairns brave 25
Chris Cairns played a brief innings that fired the spirits of a demoralised batting display by the Kiwis. He hit Bandaratilake for two massive sixes and a couple of fours facing 40 balls in his knock of 25.
Arjuna Ranatunga lauded his spin bowlers who were instrumental in the win. ``What I think is that the spinners bowled really well, but unfortunately for New Zealand although their spinners bowled well they were inconsistant. They bowled more lose deliveries than we did.''
New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming said that Sri Lankans played better cricket in the Test. ``The Sri Lankan spinners bowled more penetratively to put the pressure on us. As the Test series is over, we will be looking forward to the one dayers''.
Sri Lanka cricket manager Ranjith Fernando said that he was happy over the win but one cannot go overboard by these things. ``We potentially have a very good side I am sure even Arjuna will agree with me that we have to do thirty, forty percent more. I think we have learnt a few things from them and I am sure they would have learnt a few things from us and the whole thing is learning some new good things everyday and going forward'', said Ranjith Fernando.