If spunk is what Sri Lanka pride themselves on, the first two days of the Christchurch Test brought little to crow about. The visitors were put under pressure by an exceptional Brendon McCullum innings and outstanding new-ball spells from Trent Boult and Tim Southee, but did not emerge from either period of play with credit. They dropped three catches while McCullum was at the crease, plus another soon after he was out, and the batsmen showed poor application the following day.
But though Sri Lanka lost inside four days by eight wickets, they will take some confidence into the Wellington Test, Angelo Mathews said. Having given up a first-innings deficit of 303, Sri Lanka made 407 following on, while the pitch still had plenty of movement in it. The last-wicket pair also put on 59 to leave the opposition with a target of 104, which was then earnestly defended, though only two wickets came.
"The way all the batters showed their character in the second innings is the positive," Mathews said. "Even the last pair put on a fifty-run partnership and it was crucial. Our first-innings batting was very poor. I thought we kicked ourselves out of the game by batting poorly. It was too much to ask from the batsmen in the second innings, but the way we fought was good."
"In the second innings, I also thought our bowlers did really well. They did it quite accurately and consistently. In the first innings, I thought we were a little bit wayward in the first fifty overs."
The batsmen had rallied around Dimuth Karunaratne's 152 in the second innings, which came from 363 deliveries, in over eight hours in the middle. Karunaratne had been dropped following the tour of England after a string of mediocre scores. On that tour he had had scores of 38, 16, 28 and 45.
"For Dimuth to get his first century against a really good bowling attack is sensational," Mathews said. "He stuck there, and was trying to build partnerships with the guys at the other end. I'm sure he must have got a lot of confidence by scoring that big 150. We were disappointed as well with him getting 30s and 40s. We knew the talent that he had and he's a really good player when he gets going. He's a brilliant batsman to watch and hopefully he goes from strength to strength and scores a big one in Wellington as well."
The Test was a baptism by fire for 21-year-old offspinner Tharindu Kaushal, who bore the brunt of a Brendon McCullum onslaught on day one, ending with figures of 1 for 159. He bowled 22 overs - the most in the attack - on a green pitch in that first innings, and also opened the bowling in the second dig, finishing that innings with 1 for 48. Sri Lanka had preferred to play him in this Test over Dilruwan Perera, who is viewed as a steadier, but less attacking option.
"You've got to bite the bullet sometimes. We needed someone who is attacking, if you're only playing one spinner," Mathews said. "He is quite unique. He's not a conventional offspinner, and he's got a doosra as well. With that chance I thought he'd come good, but it's his first game and everyone has a bit of nerves in their first match. I thought he bowled pretty well in the second innings."
Mathews also had high praise for McCullum's 134-ball 195, which swayed the match emphatically in New Zealand's favour, after Sri Lanka had put the hosts in to bat.
"It was one of the best I've seen," Mathews said. "He was playing like a Twenty20. It was just going all over the park and whoever came his way went for a lot of runs. That's one of those innings where he just had a lot of fun, you'd have thought."