Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day November 19, 2012

Batting ineptitude sinks New Zealand

New Zealand crumbled against the spin of Rangana Herath on the third day, but they had been damaged by seam too

New Zealand's first dismissal of the day epitomised their morning and foreshadowed the ineptitude to follow. Nuwan Kulasekara had been bringing the ball in, as he often does, but there was none of the hooping swing the New Zealand bowlers had enjoyed the previous morning, just a little movement off the seam. Martin Guptill had not scored a run in his first seven balls, and he played the eighth expecting it to nip back, but it continued straight and clattered into middle and off. He glared at the pitch like it had just spat a pit viper at him, but it was not the fault of the surface. He had simply failed to get his front foot forward and missed a straight delivery. It was a technical failing. 

The pitch can't be blamed for the remaining eight wickets either. Kane Williamson was perhaps unlucky to be caught down the leg side, but the other batsmen were neither technically capable of handling Rangana Herath's spin, nor did they possess the psychological fortitude to survive regardless. Balls didn't go through the surface, nor did they fizz off the wicket as they might have if the Test had gone five days. There was plenty of turn, but as Brendon McCullum affirmed on day one, that is to be expected in Sri Lanka.

In India, New Zealand had lost 31 wickets to R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha in two Tests, and 13 wickets to the spinners in Galle suggest forcefully that they must address their failings against spin. They had spoken of being positive and not allowing the slow bowlers to settle, but their means of pursuing that ambition seemed exclusively limited to hitting out. Picking gaps and rotating the strike have long been the bedrock of effective strategy against spin, but they eluded New Zealand in both innings.

Perhaps the only statistic New Zealand can find solace in, is that England surrendered even more wickets to spin at this venue eight months ago. But unless they are harsh on themselves after this performance, it is difficult to see them reacting in time for the second Test.

"Herath has got 45 wickets this year and they all haven't been against us, so he has got wickets against other teams as well," New Zealand captain Ross Taylor said after the match. "In both innings he dominated our batting line up. Leading to the next game we need to come up with a plan on how we are going to combat Herath.

"We've been in this situation before, and we came back and played a lot better against spin after spin dominated us in India. We've got a couple more days to try and get our process and thinking around it. We don't want to dwell what's happened in the past, but we have to get on with it."

Spin was not their only shortcoming in Galle, with five top-order wickets having fallen cheaply to seam bowling, ensuring the middle order was cornered into reticence against Herath in each innings. They had collapsed in a similar fashion in the third innings against South Africa in Hamilton earlier this year, and might have lost the next Test at the Basin too, were it not for rain that had washed out almost a day of play.

The confidence among New Zealand's batsmen cannot be high, having failed against all types of bowling, and they must now regroup for the second Test, having lost five matches in a row - their worst run in 67 years. 

"That is not a nice stat to hear," Taylor said. "We have to put it right as soon as possible. It's going to be a difficult time in Colombo. We need to go at the Sri Lankans' score and our ability to take wickets will be crucial as well in the next Test."

It is difficult to see New Zealand leveling the series, but they will be playing on one of the most seam-friendly pitches on the subcontinent at P Sara Oval, and perhaps that will spur them to a better performance. New Zealand were once a dangerous side when cornered, but there is no fight in their game anymore. They must rediscover it, because on Galle's evidence, they will not win matches with their technique.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kay on November 22, 2012, 7:18 GMT

    @gnanzcupid.. why don't you go troll on the india vs england forums mate? clearly your indian team needs all the support they can get to show the world that they can in fact play test cricket. NZ on the other hand need to bank on their fast bowlers to make a game of it in the 2nd test. the pitches in SL are much more responsive now than they used to be. so they must make use of it. can't expect a huge improvement in their batting in the 2nd test to be honest.

  • Namith on November 22, 2012, 3:18 GMT

    @gnanzcupid:- If minnows like India can beat England marginally at their back yard why not SL....comprehensively beat NZ......

  • gnanavelu on November 21, 2012, 14:36 GMT

    its encouraging to see minnows like SL are pulling some exciting win.Though their luck cant help them in long run i believe. It will be interesting to have a test match contest of Bangladesh vs SL, or even Zimbabwe vs SL. SL will bite the dust in their series against bangladesh coming year

  • Sriram on November 21, 2012, 13:24 GMT

    Where is CRICKET heading? Asians cant play absolute fast, pace bowling on green tops. Eng, NZ, SA and to some extent Oz can't play rank turners!!! Which is the team that can play in all conditions??

  • Glenn on November 21, 2012, 9:02 GMT

    I think the root problem lies with the head of NZ cricket, The team have no moral or belief that we can win anymore, John wright should have been a god send for us but the Head of NZ cricket John bucanon tied his hands so he couldnt do the job he wanted to do so he left after 18 months after winning for the first time on over a decade in Australia, Now we have a guy who's only international credentials is coaching Kenya for 4 months. I think the boys have just lost the motivation and desire to win because the inhouse camp just dosnt know what it is doing.

  • Dummy4 on November 21, 2012, 7:13 GMT

    In my honest opinion, the great NZ players like Cairns, Fleming, Astle retired WAY too early in their careers. Vettori is only in his early 30s and he's retiring from some forms of the game already!! Look at the likes of the true greats - Dravid, Ponting, Lara, Jayawardene, Tendulkar, Laxman all played well into their late 30s, and they used that time to mentor the younger players while consistently performing for the team to offset some of the poor performances by these younger players - that's how younger players are merged into a side.

    Even some of the better performers in the team like Guptill, McCullum, and at times Taylor, are not up to international cricket level. And when these mediocre players are mixed with young players it's a recipe for disaster as we have here.

  • Dummy4 on November 21, 2012, 4:55 GMT

    i think nz needs leave out patel and try nathula and also bj watling in the test team i thought brownlie wasnt that bad either

  • Ivan on November 21, 2012, 4:03 GMT

    hey all i think New Zealand cricket need to look at the older senior players and totaly make changes in there we need new young talent to try anf fight what have we got to lose nothing ppl say all this stuff about Kane Williamson but everyone has to have trust and faith in him he will have some bad times we all have them he will do well for nz. I also think that they need to get rid of guptil and have Bj Watling and mccullum or Jesse Ryder to open and williamson at no 3 and guys like James Franklin vittori mills martin and co need to step down and let playesr like Jacob Duffy adam milne jimmy neeshan Cory anderson and hamish rutherford and others need to have there chance we have neil wagner and southee and bracewell doing well please New Zealnd cricket alot are sad in watching tests because the way we have been playing. i think Ross Taylor is not doing well as captian and its effecting his batting

  • joseph on November 21, 2012, 3:14 GMT

    Nz is almost an experienced side with Taylor, Mccullum, Guptil,Southee,Franklin. Just like India's famed batting line up lost to Eng and Aus, Nz are able to do the same in ASIA. Only SA and Aus have some good performance in ASIA.

  • Robert on November 21, 2012, 1:19 GMT

    @paps. McCullum has back issues and can't keep for five days, and if Watling came in the team he would be the one keeping, he is a wicket keeper himself.. Also, he was never in the Squad prior to the start of the tour, and it is mainly due to his good showing in the ODI's that everybody wants him there now, myself included, but unfortunately he isn't in the country anymore, as he wasn't on the test squad list before hand.

    I think we do have the best team out there, except for Ryder and Watling not being included, and I think this team just needs to step up. In their defense it is always difficult for a Western team to play on a sub-continent pitch.

    But still, was a real disappointment after we had managed to even the game up after the first innings. Here's hoping we do better in the second.

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