Fast bowlers bundle Sri Lanka out for 154
Sri Lanka's decision to bat first backfired spectacularly at Christchurch as New Zealand's fast bowlers, led by the fiery Shane Bond, bundled them out for 154 by tea on the opening day. The New Zealand batsmen then further consolidated that position, getting to 85 for 2 by close of play to make it a woeful start to the series for the Sri Lankans.
Jayawardene's decision at the toss was a surprise given the conditions - a fresh drop-in pitch and cloudy skies - and the history at this venue - in the last ten Tests only once has the captain winning the toss decided to bat. Sri Lanka made that call, though, and Bond and the rest of the fast bowlers made them pay for it. Upul Tharanga rode his luck with several play-and-misses and managed 33, while Chamara Kapugedera struck a more fluent 37, but apart from their 50-run partnership, New Zealand were always firmly in command. And though Chaminda Vaas struck an early blow with the ball, Mathew Sinclair and Craig Cumming steered New Zealand to a comfortable position by the close.
That batting would be a difficult task here was evident from the very first ball that Bond bowled - it pitched on middle, jagged away, and beat Tharanga comprehensively. The pattern was set, and from there on it was a relentless test of technique and skill, as Bond, bowling at over 140kmph, and Chris Martin repeatedly beat the bat, or induced edges that found the slip cordon or flew to third man.
Jayasuriya was the first to succumb, in the third over of the day - one ball after having a leg-stump half-volley clipped for four, Bond pitched it right in the corridor, and the edge went straight to Stephen Fleming at first slip. Buoyed by that early success, Bond, playing his first Test on his home ground, became even more irresistible. Sangakkara's only scoring stroke was an edged four, before he too succumbed to another one that seamed away. Jayawardene's decision at the toss was already looking like a bad one, and it got even worse when he hoicked a short ball to fine leg for 8, leaving Sri Lanka tottering at 37 for 3.
Tharanga and Kapugedera began the rescue mission, but neither was entirely convincing, as runs continued to leak via edges that raced to the vacant third-man boundary. Tharanga was also helped by the fact that he was mostly at the non-striker's end when Bond was creating havoc - in the first 13 overs of the game, he only played seven deliveries from Bond.
Sri Lanka's best batsman on the day was Kapugedera. He started off with a lovely cover-drive off Bond, and then played a crisp pull off Oram to suggest that he was coming to grips with the conditions, which eased up as the sun came out just before lunch. His partnership with Tharanga was worth 50, but was followed by another collapse which ensured that there was no escape for Sri Lanka. Franklin, who mixed some excellent deliveries with some fairly ordinary ones, removed Tharanga, whose slash outside off was smartly held by Jamie How. In his next over, Chamara Silva's debut innings in Test cricket became an entirely unmemorable one when he was cleaned up by an indipper which comprehensively beat his drive. Kapugedera's resistance was ended when he shouldered arms to an indipper from Franklin, and only a 22-run last-wicket stand between Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga - aided by a couple of dropped catches by Bond - helped Sri Lanka top 150.
New Zealand started shakily too - How had no answers as Malinga fired in a full-length delivery on the stumps, while Cumming was caught in the slips off the same bowler off a no-ball. With Malinga bowling at around 150kmph and Vaas keeping tight control over line and length, both Cumming and Sinclair - returning to Test cricket after a two year hiatus - had their hands full, but slowly the seam movement became less pronounced, and the run-getting became easier. Sinclair, especially, was looking in good touch, driving handsomely through cover, before finally nicking one off Vaas.
Muralitharan was introduced in the 18th over, and though he spun a few past the bat even on a first-day pitch, Cumming and Fleming survived, as New Zealand finished the day with plenty of reason to be satisfied with their day's work.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.