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What began as a confidence-boosting exercise to develop some of New Zealand's emerging players turned into a tour through a chamber of horrors. After their expected successes in Zimbabwe - whose promotion to Test status New Zealand had enthusiastically supported - Martin Crowe's youthful side arrived in Colombo prepared for stiffer competition in a three-Test series. But 36 hours later Sri Lanka lost all its idyllic enchantment.
On November 16 several players were taking breakfast on the balconies of their hotel in Colombo when, less than 50 metres away, Sri Lanka's naval commander, Vice-Admiral Clancy Fernando, and three other naval personnel were assassinated by a suicide bomber from the Tamil separatist movement. The tourists saw the horrific results at first hand. Dismembered bodies were strewn over the blood-stained street; even the balconies and walls of the hotel were stained with human debris. Many of the players went into shock.
New Zealand's previous tour of Sri Lanka, led by Crowe's brother Jeff in 1986-87, was abandoned after a bomb killed over 100 people at the crowded Pettah bus station, which the team had passed at a distance of 150 metres half an hour before. This time, though fewer people died, the incident was much closer. After seeking diplomatic advice, a majority of the tourists voted to leave.
But the chairman of New Zealand Cricket, Peter McDermott, having consulted government officials, flew out to insist that the tour should go on. McDermott was concerned about the cost to his board in tour guarantees and compensation to the Sri Lankan board; the government was concerned about trading relations with Sri Lanka, and particularly about a trade exhibition due to start in Colombo two days later. Despite public promises that there would be no pressure and no recriminations, McDermott was forceful in a three-and-a-half-hour meeting with the players, creating division and acrimony within their ranks. Mark Greatbatch was particularly angry at attempts to make him stay, and returned home with Rod Latham, Dipak Patel, Gavin Larsen and Willie Watson. Coach Warren Lees also left, and Crowe took over his duties. Ken Rutherford, one of those who changed their minds and stayed, warned other countries against touring Sri Lanka, though he later withdrew his remarks under pressure from ICC. The departed players were replaced by 38-year-old John Wright, who thought he had played his last Test cricket, Justin Vaughan, Michael Owens and Grant Bradburn. Vaughan, an English-born doctor who played for Gloucestershire in 1992, made himself useful on the flight over by attending a sick woman.
A revised itinerary included two Tests instead of three, reducing the trip by a week. But the players' confidence and will never recovered. After winning all their matches in Zimbabwe apart from the drawn First Test, they lost all in Sri Lanka except the rain-curtailed First Test at Moratuwa and the first of the one-day Internationals, washed out when Sri Lanka were in sight of victory. Most humiliating was their first-ever Test defeat by Sri Lanka, whose only previous two Test victories were over India and Pakistan, both in 1985-86.
Back in Zimbabwe, New Zealand had been encouraged by a maiden Test hundred from Latham in the First Test at Bulawayo (Kevin Arnott reciprocated with a century on the final day) and by the steady development of Patel. The Kenyan-born off-spinner, who had played such a major role in their World Cup campaign, took six wickets in an innings in both Tests and spun New Zealand to victory in the Second. Crowe scored his 14th Test century in Harare and his 15th, perhaps his best, in a vain attempt to stave off Sri Lanka's victory in Colombo. Rutherford battled more successfully than most through the Sri Lankan nightmare, scoring a long-overdue second Test hundred, and Wright's unexpected return enabled him to become the first New Zealander to score 5,000 Test runs. For the victorious Sri Lankans, opener Roshan Mahanama batted splendidly, scoring his first two Test centuries in successive innings and another hundred in the third limited-overs game. Former wicket-keeper Hashan Tillekeratne claimed his own place in the record books by equalling the Test record for a fielder of seven catches in a match.
M. D. Crowe (Wellington) (captain), A. H. Jones (Wellington) (vice-captain), S. B. Doull (Northern Districts), M. J. Greatbatch ( entral Districts), C. Z. Harris (Canterbury), B. R. Hartland (Canterbury), M. J. Haslam (Auckland), G. R. Larsen (Wellington), R. T. Latham (Canterbury), D. J. Nash (Northern Districts), A. C. Parore (Auckland), D. N. Patel (Auckland), K. R. Rutherford (Otago), M. L. Su'a (Auckland), W. Watson (Auckland).
Doull and Haslam joined the party to tour Zimbabwe as replacements for C. L. Cairns (Canterbury) and D. K. Morrison (Auckland), who withdrew with injuries before the tour began. C. Pringle (Auckland) was summoned to Sri Lanka after Doull was injured in Zimbabwe. After the bombing outside the tourists' hotel in Colombo, Greatbatch, Larsen, Latham, Patel and Watson returned to New Zealand, to be replaced by G. E. Bradburn (Northern Districts), M. B. Owens (Canterbury), J. T. C. Vaughan (Auckland) and J. G. Wright (Auckland). Coach W. K. Lees also left Sri Lanka after the bomb.
Team manager: L. Dearsley. Coach: W. K. Lees
Test matches - Played 4: Won 1, Lost 1, Drawn 2.
First-class matches - Played 5: Won 2, Lost 1, Drawn 2.
Wins - Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe B.
Loss - Sri Lanka.
Draws - Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka.
One-day Internationals - Played 5: Won 2, Lost 2, No result 1. Wins - Zimbabwe (2).
Other non first-class matches - Played 3; Won 1, Lost 2. Win - Zimbabwe Country Districts.
Losses - Sri Lankan Board XI (2).
Match reports for
Match reports for