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August 30, 2009
Sri Lanka 416 (Samaraweera 143, Jayawardene 92, Patel 4-78) and 311 for 5 dec (Sangakkara 109, Jayawardene 96) beat New Zealand 234 (Taylor 81, Herath 3-70, Muralitharan 3-71) and 397 (Vettori 140, Oram 56, Herath 5-139) by 96 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
Sri Lanka were expected to wrap up victory early on the final day, but had to wait until the 68th over of the day to seal a 2-0 sweep and cement their place at No. 2 in the ICC Test rankings. They had New Zealand six wickets down for 182 at stumps on day four, but were thoroughly frustrated by a century stand between Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram in a cracking morning session. When Tillakaratne Dilshan snapped an excellent 124-run partnership by dismissing Oram two minutes before lunch, it seemed likely that victory was around the corner, but Vettori found an able ally in Iain O'Brien and the pair added 69 in 78 gut-wrenching minutes.
Like in the morning, Sri Lanka struck shortly before the interval and tea was pushed back by half an hour. The last wicket to fall was Vettori, excellently held at deep square leg by a tumbling Rangana Herath - who took five wickets - and New Zealand had finally been dismissed for 397, the highest fourth-innings total at the SSC. They were owned for the better part of four days, but fought back credibly on the fifth. It was not enough, for the damage was irreparable, and Sri Lanka finished deserved winners.
With his back to the wall, needing to bat three sessions, Vettori dipped into his reservoir of 94 Tests and summoned immense concentration to survive two of them. He helped buy time after a delayed second session - owing to a brief but fierce Colombo downpour - even as Muttiah Muralitharan returned to the field and had Jeetan Patel caught sweeping to short leg. He received tremendous support from O'Brien, who played an innings unlike any he has played in the past, plodding 75 balls for a career-best 12. There were plenty of shouts for lbws and close catches, and the umpires were tested as much as the batsmen, but O'Brien was resolute.
Vettori pulled and swept boundaries off Murali and Herath to reach a most appreciable century, one that put his entire batting unit to shame. His shot selection and confidence were amazing, supple wrists and dancing feet complimenting a fierce determination. Kumar Sangakkara spread his field as singles and doubles ticked away, but the pair played on. Dammika Prasad returned and O'Brien ducked and swayed, while Vettori pulled for four between two fielders.
Vettori was always looking for doubles to get back on strike and singles to retain strike, and with some exceptional judgment and able running, managed it. Tired fielders often lugged themselves towards the ball and runs became easy. With each ball O'Brien patted back or left, and each run scampered, New Zealand's belief soared. But Herath ended O'Brien's stubborn resistance 12 minutes before tea. O'Brien lunged at one turning away and immediately walked off without waiting for the umpire's verdict. In walked a notorious No. 11, Chris Martin, who played 13 balls before Vettori was dismissed for 140. He has been a hero all tour and today his innings panned more deliveries than any New Zealand batsman this Test.
Beginning the day with victory 312 runs away and six down, New Zealand were not expected to pull off any miracles. But with their backs to the wall, needing to bat three sessions, Vettori and Oram turned the heat on the hosts, at times defiantly and at times with fortitude, thanks to Daryl Harper and some shoddy fielding. Oram batted with assurance and the determination of a player who has started to return to form after a lean spell - his batting had been poor all tour. His sweep to Ajantha Mendis in Galle and reverse-sweep in the first innings here had been criticised. This morning he continued from last evening, presenting steadfast defence and judgment against the spinners. He shunned the bent-knee shots and refrained some sweeping and lapping the spinners, which had led to his decline earlier.
He had a slice of luck, however. Prasad bowled a good first spell should have had Oram on 36 when he rapped him flush in front of middle and leg, but Harper turned it down. Prasad thoroughly improved on his performance in the first innings and got the ball to swing away from the left-handers after pitching much closer to the batsmen. In one frustrating over he got Oram to inside-edge to fine leg and Vettori to drag onto his front boot and then edge between the slip fielders, who failed to react. There were other occasions where Oram attempted forcing drives through the off side but inside-edged past his stumps. Still, he was skillful enough to rough it out.
Vettori was comfortable against pace and spin, and worked the ball off the square mostly on the back foot initially, before gaining the confidence to reach out and drive. Thilan Thushara pitched the ball up but didn't always make the batsmen play; on a slow track, Vettori had ample time to work the ball square. Thushara didn't test Vettori with a single yorker and too often strayed down the pads to Oram, who played come fierce clips. In his first spell, Oram took 15 runs off 22 balls and Vettori 10 off 16.
Oram and Vettori played exceedingly well but you expected the Sri Lankans to be sharper. Herath failed to collect a flat throw at the stumps with Vettori short and later reacted late to a top-edge off the same batsman. The second edge Vettori steered off Prasad went smack between first and second slip and nobody moved. Even if such risky shots were not necessary, they seemed to prevent the tension from bogging Vettori down. Rarely were there scoreless periods, which can often build up anxiety. Vettori got to his half-century first, off 77 balls and in 111 minutes. Oram followed with his first significant contribution all tour but, after 173 minutes of tremendous application, punched Dilshan to Sangakkara cover for 56. At the other end Vettori sank to his knees. It was a crushing blow.
Vettori lost Oram before lunch and Patel soon after, yet batted on to a brave fourth century as the pressure mounted on his dependable shoulders. Ultimately, his brilliance was not enough to hold out for a famous draw.
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