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Andrew Fernando at the P Sara Oval
November 29, 2012
Report : All-round New Zealand level series with big win
Features : Overdue catharsis for NZ players and fans
Features : Sri Lanka's P Sara woes continue
Series/Tournaments: New Zealand tour of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka won their last home series against New Zealand 2-0 in 2009 and captain, Mahela Jayawardene, said his side were unsatisfied with the 1-1 result they had arrived at this time, after New Zealand won the second Test in Colombo. New Zealand dominated the Test from the second session of day one, and completed their 167-run victory on the fifth evening for their first Test win in Sri Lanka in 14 years.
Sri Lanka had won the first Test in Galle by ten wickets inside three days and had also swept the rain-ravaged ODI series earlier in the tour. New Zealand launched a fierce comeback in the second Test and appeared to have gained clarity on how to play Rangana Herath's left-arm spin, which was largely responsible for their third-innings collapse in the first Test.
"Playing at home, with the talent that we have in our team, I think we're the more disappointed side with a one-all result," Jayawardene said. "I think we should have wrapped up this series and walked away with it."
"In the first two, three days, they dominated the Test match and put us under a lot of pressure. We didn't handle that pressure well. We're disappointed, especially coming here with a one-nil lead from Galle after three days of Test cricket."
Sri Lanka's top order failed in three out of four innings in the series, each time losing four wickets before 20 overs had been bowled. In those three innings, only Mahela Jayawardene among Sri Lanka's top four crossed fifty - scoring 91 in the first innings in Galle. Kumar Sangakkara had an uncharacteristically lean series, making only 21 runs, while Tillakaratne Dilshan made 5 and 14 in the second Test, after having missed the first through injury.
"We have to make sure that we try and control the innings up front, especially when they are bowling with the new ball. In both Test matches, we gave away too many wickets up front and we never got any momentum. So they capitalised on that.
"In the first innings, this wicket was pretty good and New Zealand batted really well. They scored big runs. When our opportunity came, we wanted to make sure that we put up a big score, but we couldn't. That's where we made the mistake. From that point onwards, we were under pressure."
Sri Lanka had been set 363 to win in the fourth innings, but having lost four wickets cheaply on the fourth evening, were effectively batting for a draw on the final day. Angelo Mathews occupied the crease for 72 overs, making 84 from 228 balls, but could not find a partner with whom to bat out a session. He had resumed play alongside Thilan Samaraweera in the morning but lost his partner to a run-out inside the first ten overs of the day.
Mathews then resisted alongside Prasanna Jayawardene for 35 overs before Jayawardene became Todd Astle's first Test victim, and also batted with Nuwan Kulasekara for a further 15 overs. The second new ball hastened Sri Lanka's demise, however, and the tail could not defy a New Zealand pace attack pursuing their first win on the tour.
"The thinking on the fifth day was that we should get through that first hour and build a couple of partnerships. With Thilan batting with Angelo, It was crucial that those two guys try and guide us through to lunch and from then, we try and capitalise. It was very unfortunate the way that Sammy got run out. But, even after that, PJ and Angelo batted really well for a good period of time. Whenever we felt that we were getting through a certain tough period, we lost a wicket.
"Exposing the tailenders for the second new ball is always going to be tough for those guys. If we had had a couple of batsmen running through that morning and afternoon session, we would have had a fighting chance."
Sri Lanka have now lost their last three matches at the P Sara Oval, having also been defeated by England in March and India in 2010. On each occasion they have squandered a series lead they had earned in Galle.
Jayawardene could not pinpoint why they have found the venue difficult, but admitted it was a problem that needed addressing. "That's something that we need to look at. It has happened every time we played here and it hadn't happened at the SSC."
"It's a very sporting wicket. Sometimes, on day one it assists the fast bowlers more than any other wicket in Sri Lanka, but I think it is a very good Test wicket."
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondentFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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