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This pair of dull draws offered a compelling case for the abolition of two- Test series. Neither side wanted to risk going one down with one to play by losing the opening match, leading to a safety-first approach by both teams. Then, nervous about the prospect of throwing away the series through one bad slip, Sri Lanka clammed up during the Second Test. The net result was two dire matches. As an advertisement for Test cricket, the series was a disaster. In fairness, New Zealand and their captain, Stephen Fleming, tried hard to fashion a positive result in the second game, and rain in both matches did not help. But it was clear that if Sri Lanka continued to play so negatively they would win few Tests and even fewer admirers.
In bare statistical terms, the batting contributions of the recently-appointed Sri Lankan captain, Hashan Tillekeratne, could not be questioned - only Fleming, with 376 in the series, scored more heavily. But the way he gathered his 237 runs proved an ideal antidote to insomnia, which was sad because every so often he unveiled a delicious drive that showed he had the shots if only he chose to use them. With the ball, Muttiah Muralitharan was once again the leading wicket-taker in the series. He sent down more than a third of Sri Lanka's deliveries and took 13 of their 32 wickets.
For New Zealand, a drawn series was an excellent result. They were without key players in Chris Cairns, who chose to play county cricket instead, and Nathan Astle, recuperating from a knee operation. On top of that, they played no first-class warm-up games, and by the time most of their players were coming to terms with the sapping heat and high humidity the series was over.
Match reports for
1st Test: Sri Lanka v New Zealand at Colombo (PSS), Apr 25-29, 2003
2nd Test: Sri Lanka v New Zealand at Kandy, May 3-7, 2003