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Toss: Sri Lanka.
After Sri Lanka had spun them out cheaply at Galle, New Zealand fielded three slow bowlers - Priest, Vettori and Wiseman - for the first time since 1985-86. It was a sensible move by the tourists, though ironically it was their sole fast bowler, Chris Cairns, who claimed five for 62. In his 33rd Test, he emulated his father, Lance, by reaching 100 Test wickets. Never before in Test cricket have a father and son both achieved this feat. He also became only the third New Zealander, after Sir Richard Hadlee and John Bracewell, to record the Test double of 100 wickets and 1,000 runs.
Tight bowling restricted Sri Lanka to 206, but again the New Zealand batsmen squandered their chances, despite a resolute 78 from Fleming. At the close of the second day, with the home team enjoying a lead of just 13 on first innings, the game hung nicely in the balance. The next morning, Sri Lanka stumbled to 36 for four on a deteriorating pitch before Ranatunga and Tillekeratne added 102 for the fifth wicket.
New Zealand, in turn, fought back, and seemed to have earned themselves a realistic chance of victory when Sri Lanka were 211 for nine, 224 ahead. But Kaluwitharana, who punished the bowling mercilessly, and No. 11 Muralitharan produced a match-winning last-wicket stand of 71, a record between the two countries. Vettori, claiming Test-best figures of six for 64, was the only bowler to impress. He showed great control and variation, but there was scant support from the other end. When he bowled Tillekeratne for 40, it was his 50th Test wicket in 14 matches; he was still only 19. Meanwhile, 36-year-old Priest advanced his total to three in three Tests.
Facing a target of 296 in six sessions and 22 minutes, New Zealand were ten without loss overnight, but succumbed meekly for 131. Muralitharan and Bandaratilleke snapped up nine wickets between them as all ten fell to spin, as in the first innings at Galle. The New Zealand coach Steve Rixon was so upset by his team's performance that he could not bring himself to talk about it after the match. A series that had started promisingly for New Zealand ended with two hefty defeats, which could not be blamed wholly on the pitches.
Man of the Match: R. S. Kaluwitharana. Man of the Series: M. Muralitharan.
Close of play: First day, Sri Lanka 200-8 ( G. P. Wickremasinghe20*, M. R. C. N. Bandaratilleke 4*); Second day, New Zealand 193; Third day, New Zealand 10-0 ( B. A. Young 7*, C. M. Spearman 1*).