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The Sri Lankans arrived in New Zealand for their second tour - the first was in 1982-83- with no great reputation, and Martin Crowe, the New Zealand captain, predicted a 3-0 win for his team. In the event, all three Tests were drawn, and Sri Lanka had the upper hand in at least two of them. New Zealand had to be satisfied by their twelfth consecutive season without losing a Test rubber at home, though they won all three one-day internationals easily.
The cricket was never dull. The retirement of Sir Richard Hadlee, Ewen Chatfield and John Bracewell had undeniably weakened the New Zealand attack, but the Sri Lankans won many admirers for their attacking batting and their friendliness towards crowds and opponents. Aravinda de Silva, dubbed Quicksilver by the crowds, had remarkable success. His 267 in the First Test at Wellington was a record for Sri Lanka, and the power of his hooking brought him runs at a very brisk rate. He was dismissed twice in the Hamilton Test attempting to hook within minutes of his arrival, but when New Zealand tried to bounce him out in Auckland, he scored 96 and 123. While the hook was his most powerful weapon, his square cut and cover drive were also perfectly timed. The most consistent batsman was Asanka Gurusinha, who played in every match and was the leading run-scorer on the tour. With every stroke at his command, he steadied the side regularly. However, all the batsmen had more than a measure of success - Chandika Hathurusinghe scored 191 runs in his first two Tests - even if they were left in the shadows by the explosive power of Graeme Labrooy at Auckland, where he reached 50 in thirteen scoring strokes, a Test record, without the aid of a single.
The Sri Lankan bowling was average, though Labrooy and Rumesh Ratnayake, the only survivor of the previous tour, had their moments. Labrooy was a man of moods. He took only seventeen first-class wickets, but thirteen of those were in the Tests; he bowled with accuracy and persistence into a howling wind at Wellington, and he had match figures of seven for 90 at Auckland. Arjuna Ranatunga, the captain, was a useful all-rounder, although his Test performances suffered from his being handicapped by injury. The team lacked a penetrative spinner: Asoka de Silva bowled his minimal leg-breaks tidily, but his four Test wickets cost nearly 100 runs apiece. The fielding, lack-lustre at first, improved steadily, with Sanath Jayasuriya an athletic outfielder.
New Zealand's bowling was far from impressive, until Chris Cairns returned for the final Test, after sixteen months' absence with a back injury. If, like the other fast-medium bowlers, he was guilty of too many loose deliveries, and tended to invite the hook, his splendid action suggested a Test bowler in the making. Willie Watson was steady, but Danny Morrison showed the effects of a strenuous summer. After his successes in Pakistan and Australia, Chris Pringle was dropped for the Third Test, suffering from fatigue, which was hardly surprising when the team had to play international cricket from October to March. With the departure of Bracewell and Stephen Boock, New Zealand also lacked quality spin bowling.
Their batting prospered, however, with Andrew Jones, a master of the unorthodox, scoring three successive hundreds, including two in the Hamilton Test, and an aggregate of 513 runs, a record for a New Zealander in a home series. Martin Crowe's 299 at Wellington was another New Zealand Test record, and in that match he and Jones shared a third-wicket partnership of 467, the highest for any wicket in a Test match. Crowe is very much a stylist; Jones is not. But their combined talents shredded Sri Lanka's first-innings lead of 323 into the wastepaper-basket. Crowe made his thirteenth Test hundred in commanding style, and Jones unleashed some fluent cover drives off either foot. They provided the bulk of a total of 671 for four, a record for their country, and also beat New Zealand's first-class record stand of 445 between W. N. Carson and P. E. Whitelaw for Auckland against Otago in 1936-37. John Wright contributed generously throughout the series, and Shane Thomson delighted spectators with his polished batting in the last two Tests.
In was a pity that so enjoyable a visit ended in controversy, not in New Zealand but in Colombo. A Sri Lankan newspaper report said that the manager, Stanley Jayasinghe, had alleged that Ranatunga and the assistant-manager, Jayantha Paranathala, had displayed haughty attitudes and double standards. The trouble appeared to stem from the manager's decision to send home the injured opener, Dammika Ranatunga, the captain's elder brother, and it was to result in Ranatunga's losing the captaincy and missing the tour of England later in the year.
Test matches- Played 3: Drawn 3.
First-class matches- Played 7: Won 1, Drawn 6.
Win- Central Districts.
Draws- New Zealand (3), Emerging Players, Wellington, Canterbury.
One-day internationals- Played 3: Lost 3.
Match reports for
1st ODI: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Napier, Jan 26, 1991
2nd ODI: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Auckland, Jan 28, 1991
1st Test: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Wellington, Jan 31-Feb 4, 1991
3rd ODI: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Dunedin, Feb 6, 1991
2nd Test: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Hamilton, Feb 22-26, 1991
3rd Test: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Auckland, Mar 1-5, 1991