Lanka strikes back

Mahela Jayawardene and Stephen Fleming admire the trophy that they have shared.-AP

Veteran Muttiah Muralitharan bagged 10 wickets in a Test for the umpteenth time as Sri Lanka bearded New Zealand in its own den. Rex Clementine reports.

It has been a successful 2006 for Sri Lanka in Test cricket and it finished things off in style winning its last Test of the year. After they were beaten by New Zealand in the opening Test in Christchurch by five wickets inside three days, the pressure was on the tourists to live up to expectations.

And they did it in style, winning the second and final Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington by 217 runs with a day to spare.

While vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara and rookie Chamara Silva were the heroes for Sri Lanka with the bat, star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan did it with the ball once again, claiming his 18th match haul of 10 wickets and the fifth this year. While Muralitharan got most of the accolades, the man who gave the Sri Lankans the edge was paceman Lasith Malinga, who ripped through New Zealand's top order by picking up five for 68 — his best bowling effort in Test matches — in the first innings. It could have all gone wrong for the tourists if not for Malinga, who troubles the best of batsmen in the world with his unusual sling action. After electing to bat on a good track, Sri Lanka was bowled out for 268 within the first day. The tourists would have been in trouble had New Zealand gained the first innings lead, but Malinga ensured that things didn't get out of hand with an inspired bowling effort, one of the best by a Sri Lankan seamer .

Sri Lanka repaired some of the damage on the first day when it reduced New Zealand to 66 for four with Malinga accounting for three wickets. The next morning New Zealand was bowled out for 130 giving Sri Lanka a first innings lead of 138 runs.

The 23-year-old Malinga picked up the vital wickets of Stephen Fleming and Nathan Astle and his other victims were Jamie How, Matthew Sinclair and Jacob Oram. The New Zealanders had problems in picking up his deliveries. He used the yorkers cleverly and the batsmen even had problems in putting away his full tosses, which they failed to pick up early.

After Malinga's burst, Muralitharan cleaned up the tail picking up four for 31 as the last six wickets fell for 64 runs.

Earlier, it was Kumar Sangakkara who helped Sri Lanka to a respectable score with an unbeaten 156. The left-hander had hit an unbeaten hundred in the previous game in Christchurch as well, and in Wellington he hardly put a foot wrong crafting a chanceless hundred, the 12th of his career.

The 29-year-old came to bat in the second over itself after Sanath Jayasuriya had departed with the team yet to get off the mark. Paceman Chris Martin had picked up three wickets in the morning, but that didn't overawe Sangakkara as he adopted an aggressive approach, hooking the paceman for a six early on in his innings.

Sangakkara added 121 runs for the fifth wicket with rookie Chamara Silva (61) who came into the Test after collecting a pair on debut in Christchurch. Sangakkara also put on 39 runs for the sixth wicket with wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene (25), but the tail didn't fire as four wickets fell for 29 leaving Sangakkara stranded. There were five ducks in Sri Lanka's first innings.

Silva, who made his maiden fifty in the first innings, showed his temperament for the big occasion when he hit a thrilling, unbeaten 152 in the second. This helped Sri Lanka to get to a strong position in the match.

Silva, who made his ODI debut as a 19-year-old against Australia in Colombo in 1999, had shown that he had the temperament for the big occasion when he hit a fifty in that match, against Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. The fact that he has played only 10 ODIs in seven years is a mystery to many. In Wellington he showed his class again and many people started comparing him with Aravinda de Silva, the greatest batsman produced by Sri Lanka.

Silva's bow-legged stance, mannerisms, the style and the inclination to go for big shots all looked similar to Aravinda. From 91 he went to 99 with consecutive boundaries, the first one a powerful pull and the second an elegant cover drive.

The 100th run came when he took a cheeky single off Chris Martin, hitting the ball back to the bowler. And celebrated the feat raising his arms to the dressing room.

He was involved in two vital partnerships, first adding 96 for the sixth wicket with wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene and then putting on 88 for the seventh wicket with Chaminda Vaas, who made 47.

Silva faced 217 balls and hit 20 fours and was named Man of the Match. Daniel Vettori stood out for New Zealand taking seven for 130 and finished the game with a match bag of 10 for 183.

The Basin Reserve, New Zealand's second oldest Test venue, had hosted Tests since 1930, but Vettori was the first spinner to get a match bag of 10. Before him, Richard Haddlee (twice), Wasim Akram, Courtney Walsh and Shoaib Akthar, all fast bowlers, had got match hauls of 10 wickets. Later in the Test, Muralitharan joined Vettori as the second spinner to take 10 wickets at the ground.

Sri Lanka set New Zealand a record target of 504 and the host got off to a quick start, the openers adding 56 runs for the first wicket.

New Zealand resumed the fourth day at 75 for two and any hopes of saving or winning the Test rested on captain Fleming, whose career-best 274 not out had come against the Sri Lankans in Colombo.

But Malinga sorted him out with a rising delivery and later Muralitharan joined the party as Sri Lanka picked up four wickets in the morning session. Vettori and Franklin defied the Sri Lankans for a while, but they were only delaying the inevitable as Sri Lanka won before tea on the fourth day.

The Test win was Sri Lanka's second in New Zealand following the historic win in Napier in 1995, which was its first Test victory away from home. The Wellington win was Sri Lanka's sixth Test victory in 11 matches with four of them coming away from home, a remarkable achievement.

Muralitharan had an extremely successful year as he ended up with 90 wickets in 11 Tests. His previous best was 80 wickets in 12 Tests in 2001.

The Scores

Second Test, New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Wellington, December 15-18, 2006. Sri Lanka won by 217 runs.

Sri Lanka — 1st innings: U. Tharanga c McCullum b Martin 7; S. Jayasuriya c Fleming b Martin 0; K. Sangakkara (not out) 156; M. Jayawardene b Martin 0; C. Kapugedera c Sinclair b Oram 5; C. Silva c Fleming b Franklin 61; P. Jayawardene lbw b Vettori 25; C. Vaas c McCullum b Bond 0; F. Maharoof c McCullum b Vettori 4; L. Malinga c Sinclair b Vettori 0; M. Muralitharan c & b Bond 0; Extras (b-1, lb-1, nb-8) 10. Total: 268.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-27, 3-41, 4-81, 5-202, 6-239, 7-240, 8-251, 9-259.

New Zealand bowling: Bond 16-1-85-2; Martin 13-2-50-3; Franklin 12-2-46-1; Oram 3-0-10-1; Vettori 14-1-53-3; Astle 7-2-22-0.

New Zealand — 1st innings: C. Cumming b Maharoof 13; J. How lbw b Malinga 26; M. Sinclair b Malinga 6; S. Fleming c P. Jayawardene b Malinga 0; N. Astle b Malinga 17; B. McCullum b Muralitharan 43; D. Vettori b Malinga 0; J. Oram lbw b Muralitharan 1; J. Franklin lbw b Muralitharan 1; S. Bond lbw b Muralitharan 8; C. Martin (not out) 0; Extras (b-7, lb-6, nb-2) 15. Total: 130.

Fall of wickets: 1-30, 2-40, 3-40, 4-66, 5-75, 6-85, 7-90, 8-98, 9-116.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 4-0-8-0; Malinga 18-4-68-5; Maharoof 5-2-10-1; Muralitharan 12.1-3-31-4.

Sri Lanka — 2nd innings: U. Tharanga lbw b Martin 20; S. Jayasuriya c Fleming b Vettori 31; K. Sangakkara c Franklin b Bond 8; M. Jayawardene c Sinclair b Vettori 31; C. Kapugedera b Vettori 27; C. Silva (not out) 152; P. Jayawardene c (sub) b Martin 37; C. Vaas c McCullum b Vettori 47; F. Maharoof lbw b Vettori 1; L. Malinga lbw b Vettori 0; M. Muralitharan st. McCullum b Vettori 0; Extras (lb-7, nb-4) 11. Total: 365.

Fall of wickets: 1-44, 2-62, 3-62, 4-100, 5-168, 6-262, 7-350, 8-356, 9-365.

New Zealand bowling: Bond 19-3-67-1; Martin 23-1-98-2; Vettori 42.3-6-130-7; Franklin 25-8-63-0.

New Zealand — 2nd innings: C. Cumming c Sangakkara b Muralitharan 20; J. How lbw b Malinga 33; M. Sinclair c M. Jayawardene b Muralitharan 37; S. Fleming c Sangakkara b Malinga 27; N. Astle lbw b Muralitharan 9; B. McCullum b Muralitharan 17; J. Oram lbw b Vaas 4; D. Vettori lbw b Muralitharan 51; J. Franklin c Silva b Muralitharan 44; S. Bond c Sangakkara b Maharoof 6; C. Martin (not out) 4; Extras (b-9, lb-7, w-11, nb-7) 34. Total: 286.

Fall of wickets: 1-56, 2-60, 3-115, 4-139, 5-156, 6-161, 7-163, 8-259, 9-278.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 18-2-64-1; Malinga 16-1-62-2; Maharoof 11-1-47-1; Muralitharan 34.1-9-87-6; Jayasuriya 6-3-10-0.