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Cheery end to a disappointing season

In what has been a season-long tunnel from hell, New Zealand eventually discovered light in the form of a series-clinching Test victory over Sri Lanka. The disconsolate looks of March during the series against Australia were at last replaced with smiles, celebrations and a result to arrest New Zealand's flagging Test ranking.

The record shows that New Zealand won three of its nine Tests this season, but with two of those being innings victories in Bangladesh, this win marked the first significant Test success in over 12 months. Erasing the haunting memories of the Australians was never going to be possible, but nevertheless there are a lot of positives to be taken from New Zealand's emphatic victory.

Playing in temperatures as low as 13 degrees Celsius had an unsettling effect on Sri Lanka, with only Chaminda Vaas and Tillakaratne Dilshan able to play to their potential. In contrast, New Zealand rarely put a foot wrong - their hands are another story - from the moment Stephen Fleming won the toss.

Chris Martin produced an impeccable line, found the edges, and Sri Lanka's much-vaunted top order succumbed. Were it not for the three lives New Zealand handed Thilan Samaraweera during his 73, Sri Lanka's first innings of 211 would have been a whole lot worse.

Lou Vincent's majestic 224 was a timely reminder of his ability as a batsman of international quality. While Vincent was the little general for 534 minutes at the crease, handy knocks from Craig Cumming, Fleming and Kyle Mills provided him with crucial support to allow New Zealand to amass a lead of 311.

When Sri Lanka batted again, the New Zealand attack applied the clamps and the pressure proved too much. The need of the hour was for a disciplined approach today, but the procession of loose strokes on display was scarcely believable. Sri Lanka appeared to be on a fishing charter, not at a cricket ground.

New Zealand, meanwhile, put up an improved performance in the field. Brendon McCullum's catch off Shantha Kalavitigoda was out of this world in the context of an indifferent recent run behind the stumps, and Nathan Astle's second three-wicket haul of the match underlined how valuable his consistently straight bowling is.

New Zealand's victory also meant that, excluding the Bangladesh series, they have now won two out of 15 Tests under John Bracewell. However, with Australia proving a class above them this season, it won't be until after the outcome of the Ashes is known and New Zealand have completed its next two Tests series - against Zimbabwe and South Africa - that we will have a true picture of Bracewell's effect on the side.

Andrew McLean is a presenter of The Cricket Club, New Zealand's only national radio cricket show.