Dilshan made the difference - Vettori
Dilshan, promoted to open the innings for the first time in Tests, raced to 92 off 72 balls in the first innings and followed it up with a century in the second which helped his team set New Zealand an improbable target. The manner in which he dominated also mirrored the ineffectiveness of New Zealand's bowlers and Vettori admitted the uneven contest shut his team out of the match. "We won the toss we wanted to and probably didn't quite do the job," he said. "Look back and see how well Dilshan played and how poorly we bowled to him were the real defining moments throughout the game."
Sri Lanka's batting effort was a collective one with Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera scoring centuries in the first innings and the middle order stepping up to get some quick runs while setting the target in the second. Not that New Zealand were without opportunities. They made early inroads in both innings only to be thwarted by Dilshan's unrelenting strokeplay. "We had a couple of opportunities to put pressure on them but every time we did it he took it away from us and played exceptionally well," Vettori said. "When you have a player like that it makes it very tough to captain. He just took the momentum away from us."
New Zealand's worries were compounded when seven of their players were hit by a stomach bug; Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder, who returned to the team hotel at the start of yesterday's play, were the worst affected. Though the illness had a bearing on their fitness, Vettori said it was not an excuse for the way they batted today. Chasing an imposing 413, New Zealand's hopes of saving the game were dashed early this morning when they lost three wickets for 15 runs.
"We hoped that we could bat for longer periods of time but in some ways a few illnesses came against us and the application wasn't quite there," he said. "We tried to stay as long as we could and hoped for rain or to hang on but when you lose five of the top six for scores of under 50 it makes it very tough. Illness aside we could have fought harder in this Test match."
Vettori led by example, taking five wickets in the Test and contributing two defiant knocks down the order in each innings to resist Sri Lanka. He was in charge of a team that was highly inexperienced against the spin threat of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis but the disappointing aspect of its batting performance was the lack of competitiveness against pace. Fast bowlers Thilan Thushara and Nuwan Kulasekara bagged eight of the 20 New Zealand wickets and their success, Vettori felt, had a significant impact on the outcome.
"One of the disappointing things was to lose as many wickets to the seamers as we did coming here with a focus thinking that the spin bowlers are going to play a major part," he said. "We put a lot of effort in there and I think we played them pretty well. Murali is quality bowler and a difficult customer to come up against. But I think the way Thushara bowled was probably where we let ourselves down. He took six wickets in the Test match and bowled very well."
Vettori, though, took encouragement from the way his batsmen handled spin. "We played spin quite well," he said. "There was all this talk leading to the Test match how we are going to cope with Murali and Mendis, the guys were pretty comfortable picking them and understanding what they were trying to do. They are still very good bowlers and still if you pick them you still got to play them. That's the one positive we can take into the next Test match."