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The Sri Lankans returned to New Zealand at the end of March to fulfil the Test element of a tour they had started three months earlier. The original tour had been shattered - like so many more important things - by the Boxing Day tsunami, which devastated Sri Lanka while the players were in the midst of what was meant to be the opening one-day international.
The Sri Lankan authorities dithered before allowing the players home, though there was little delay in rescheduling the Tests for April. This was late for cricket in New Zealand, and there was no time to fit in the remaining one-day games: the Second Test started after the domestic season had finished, and ended on April 14, eleven days later than Test cricket had ever been played in New Zealand.
The Sri Lankans had managed some provincial cricket at home, but would have wanted more than the one day's fielding that the rain allowed them during the warm-up game at Christchurch. Marvan Atapattu, the Sri Lankan captain, also lost the toss in the Napier Test when New Zealand had first use of a flawless pitch; by the time the Sri Lankans at last got to bat, their tour had consisted of nearly three days chasing the ball while opponents rattled up the best part of a thousand runs.
Faced with a mountainous New Zealand total of 561, however, Sri Lanka fought back in kind and briefly glimpsed victory before a mixture of stubborn late resistance and bad light ensured a draw. Atapattu's run of poor luck at the toss continued for the Second Test at Wellington, where Sri Lanka were put in, and struggled all game with a fresh pitch and wintry wind. This time there was no recovery and they lost by an innings.
Throughout the short, trying tour the Sri Lankans maintained their courtesy and, at least outwardly, good humour. They sorely missed Muttiah Muralitharan, not yet recovered from surgery on his shoulder, but then New Zealand also had to play both Tests without their leading spinner, Daniel Vettori, who had hurt his back.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Central Districts v Sri Lankans at New Plymouth, Dec 21, 2004
Tour Match: Northern Districts v Sri Lankans at Hamilton, Dec 23, 2004
1st ODI: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Auckland, Dec 26, 2004
2nd ODI: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Napier, Dec 29, 2004
3rd ODI: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Queenstown, Jan 2, 2005
4th ODI: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Christchurch, Jan 4, 2005
5th ODI: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Wellington, Jan 8, 2005
Tour Match: Major Associations XI v Sri Lankans at Christchurch, Mar 28-30, 2005