Second Test

New Zealand v Sri Lanka, 2006-07

Don Cameron

At Basin Reserve, Wellington, December 15, 16, 17, 18, 2006. Sri Lanka won by 217 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka.

After that controversial run-out helped win the First Test, the New Zealanders would have been well advised to let sleeping tigers lie. Instead, two days before the Second Test, their captain said that the criticism would incite his men to play better at Wellington. And the next day Fleming was at it again, saying that Sangakkara had been selfish in taking his hundredth run from the first ball of an over, thus exposing Muralitharan for the remaining five balls - none of which, as it turned out, was needed. Suitably prodded, Sri Lanka roared back with a much better performance themselves, and squared the series on the back of more superb batting from Sangakkara, a fine performance from Chamara Silva in his second Test, and - almost inevitably - ten wickets from Murali himself.

Jayawardene again won the toss, and this time agreed with conventional wisdom when he batted first. He might have regretted it when Martin grabbed three quick wickets, including Jayasuriya and the captain himself for ducks, and things looked rocky at 81 for four. But again Sangakkara came to the rescue, aided by Silva, who had started his Test career with a pair at Christchurch. Ever more fluent as his innings wore on, Sangakkara cruised past 50 from 54 balls, and reached his 12th Test century from 113. However, when Silva went after a stand of 121, Sangakkara received minimal support as Bond and Vettori ripped out the last four wickets. For the second time in a week he finished with a not-out century - 156 this time - but New Zealand were happy facing a total of 268 in what appeared to be favourable batting conditions.

Little more than an hour later, though, their innings was in ruins, after a stunning burst from the pacy Malinga. Mixing spearing yorkers with sharp-bouncing lifters, he ripped out three quick wickets before the close, and added two more on the second morning, when the weather was as cold and grey as the batting. Malinga extracted some measure of revenge for that run-out by hitting McCullum on the hand, heel and shoulder, but he battled on bravely, being last out for 43 while the others struggled to make sense of Muralitharan. Sinclair later kept wicket for a time while McCullum's injuries were checked out; Sangakkara also deputised for Prasanna Jayawardene (hit on the elbow while batting) in New Zealand's second innings - all of the match's four wicketkeepers took at least one catch.

With the pitch losing its early life, and the match not even half-done, Sri Lanka did not rush for runs, especially once Sangakkara and Jayasuriya departed in successive overs to leave the game evenly balanced. But that did not last: the small, slim Silva soon had Sri Lanka on the march again. He displayed many of the mannerisms of Aravinda de Silva - the crisp flowing drives, the dapper footwork, the flourishing follow-through, and the exquisite timing on the drive. By the end of the second day Silva was well on his way to his maiden Test century, and next day went on to an unbeaten 152. He was the first batsman ever to respond immediately with a Test century after the mortification of a debut pair; no one else has even managed fifty. As Silva sailed on, Vettori, the only bowler to command respect, suddenly hit a purple patch. He removed the stubborn Vaas, then finished off the innings with three wickets in four balls, his spell of four for none in 12 deliveries giving him an excellent seven for 130 overall.

New Zealand needed an unlikely 504, and lost both openers before the close. The struggle became even grimmer next morning when Malinga had Fleming caught behind in his first over. The inevitable was delayed for a while by a stubborn eighth-wicket stand between Vettori and Franklin, but the irrepressible Muralitharan did for both in the end, on his way to six more wickets, which completed an unprecedented full set of ten in a match against all the other Test-playing nations. It was the 19th time Murali had taken ten or more in a match, and gave him 90 wickets in 11 Tests in the calendar year, a tally only ever exceeded by Shane Warne, with 96 in 15 matches in 2005.

Man of the Match: L. P. C. Silva.

© John Wisden & Co.