At Auckland, March 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Drawn. Toss: New Zealand. Sri Lanka had the whip-hand for most of the final Test, and set a target of 383 runs in at least 101 overs. The loss of four wickets for 117 dampened New Zealand's ardour, and with the tourists setting defensive fields the game seemed doomed to a draw from mid-afternoon. However, the Sri Lankans emerged as - slightly - the moral victors of the Test series.
There was jubilation in the New Zealand camp when Smith, deputising for the injured Crowe, won the toss, for the pitch looked to favour seam bowlers. But despite frequent playing and missing, Sri Lanka were in command at the end of a day in which they scored at 3.6 runs an over. Only the pace and bounce of Cairns worried them. Gurusinha had been his calm and collected self until Cairns's fine spell before lunch had him all at sea, and early in the afternoon he was lbw to a yorker. Cairns took four of the first five wickets, but Aravinda de Silva savaged him unmercifully, hitting two fours and two sixes in an over costing 21 runs. His 96 included another twelve fours, and after taking 94 balls for his fifty, he needed only 47 for the next 46. His cover drives were sometimes hit over the top, but his hooking was lethal, as at Wellington.
The day ended with a stand of 52 in 32 minutes from Tillekeratne and Labrooy, who hit 16 off his first three balls, was 41 overnight, and reached his fifty from a record thirteen scoring strokes; his unbeaten 70 came from 80 balls, with two sixes and twelve fours. It was scary stuff for the fielders. By the close of the second day, New Zealand had slipped from 139 for one to 194 for five, despite another fine innings from Wright. Rain cut 114 minutes from the third day, when Greatbatch, though lacking his usual confidence, rescued the innings with Patel, who played some exquisite strokes. The Sri Lankans bowled with particular accuracy, and then batted handsomely on a placid pitch for most of the fourth day. Again Cairns had the better of the top order, and this time De Silva took no liberties with him. However, he attacked the other bowlers with gusto, reaching his fifty in 66 balls and adding 145 off 281 balls for the third wicket with Hathurusinghe. Sri Lanka scored 119 in the session before lunch, and were 276 when De Silva was fourth out, just before tea, with five sixes and six fours to his name in an innings of 123 from 193 balls (261 minutes). The remaining wickets fell for 43 runs.
On the final day New Zealand lost ground, chiefly though the efforts of Labrooy. Wright was handicapped by a calf muscle injury, but Jones and Thomson, who showed a touch of real class in his off-side strokeplay, denied the Sri Lankans with a stand of 100 from 214 balls.
Man of the Match: P. A. De Silva.
Close of play: First day, Sri Lanka 325-8 ( G. F. Labrooy 41*); Second day, New Zealand 194-5 ( M. J. Greatbatch 18*, D. N. Patel 9*); Third day, Sri Lanka 64-2 ( U. C. Hathurusinghe 16*, P. A. De Silva 5*); Fourth day, New Zealand 18-0 ( T. J. Franklin 5*, J. G. Wright 12*).