Nathan Astle celebrates - he finished with 3 for 27
New Zealand's swing bowlers outwitted Sri Lanka's batsmen to wrap up an emphatic series-winning, innings-and-38-run victory at the Basin Reserve. Sri Lanka's hopes of a successful rearguard slowly faded during the fourth day as their middle order melted in the second session. Tillakaratne Dilshan fought back with a sizzling 73 from 99 balls in the evening, but by then it was too late.
Farveez Maharoof, the nightwatchman, resisted in the morning with an impressive 36, Kumar Sangakkara collected 45 with a steely glint in his eye, Dilshan threw caution to the wind during a daring counter-assault and Chaminda Vaas stood firm for a while in making 38. But no Sri Lanka batsman was able to construct the big hundred needed to cancel out the 311-run deficit and save the game.
James Franklin, bowling with his best rhythm of an otherwise inconsistent series, provided the key breakthroughs, claiming the prize wicket of Marvan Atapattu, one player capable of a long defensive innings, in the first session. He followed lunch with the scalps of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, and fittingly finished it off with the last wicket as Vaas chopped on.
Franklin's efforts were well supported by Kyle Mills, who rediscovered some rhythm and confidence to make his first real impact with the ball in the series, and Nathan Astle, who bowled gunbarrel-straight and wobbled it around enough to finish with 6 for 62 in the match. New Zealand's best bowler in the series, Chris Martin, had a quiet day, but his dismissal of Sanath Jayasuriya yesterday started the victory charge.
Tillakaratne Dilshan's battling 73 is ended
For New Zealand, the 1-0 series triumph ended a difficult summer on a high. After their confidence-draining pummelling against Australia, they showed considerable fortitude to bounce back so strongly. The magnificent batting of Lou Vincent, an obvious choice as Man of the Match for his 224 that set up the victory, was surely the highlight.
Sri Lanka, who were bitterly disappointed afterwards, were left ruing a disastrous wicket-tumbling first morning after losing the toss and being put in to bat. They fought hard in patches to reclaim the lost ground but were never likely to survive when the bad weather cleared, leaving them to bat six straight sessions for survival.
They started promisingly in the morning as New Zealand were left frustrated by a wicketless first hour. Mills and Franklin initially lacked menace as the ball refused to swing, and Maharoof and Atapattu added 43. However, with New Zealand's disappointment starting to mount, Franklin delivered the perfect line-and-length ball to draw Atapattu into one of his signature high-elbowed cover-drives. The ball was sliding across him and he edged straight to Fleming at first slip.
Maharoof and Sangakkara then shared a useful stand, adding 48 in an 18-over period. Fleming, however, changed the bowling shortly before the break and Mills suddenly clicked, moving the ball away from the right-hander Maharoof, and eventually created a chance that was swallowed by Astle at second slip. It ended a promising innings from Maharoof, who showcased his obvious long-term potential as he occupied the crease for two hours, sheltering the middle order from the new ball.
But Maharoof's unexpected resistance was wasted during the afternoon as his team-mates crumpled. Soon after lunch Jayawardene (13) tried to leave a short ball from Franklin too late and ended up running a catch to Brendon McCullum off the face of his bat. Sangakkara played himself in watchfully and stroked a few elegant boundaries before his off stump was flattened by a full-length inswinger that found a gap between bat and pad to leave Sri Lanka on 137 for 5.
Sri Lanka's problems escalated in the second hour of the session as Astle was introduced with instant success as he persuaded Thilan Samaraweera (17) to nibble defensively at a gentle outswinger. The ball travelled quickly to Fleming, the only slip, but straight to hand. Shantha Kalavitigoda, under pressure in his first game, was then toppled in the final few minutes before tea by Mills.
Dilshan, who was given a thorough working-over with the short ball after an unconvincing display in the first innings, was left with the tail and he decided that Sri Lanka's only hope was attack. He came out after the break with Vaas, all guns blazing - flashing through point, crashing through the covers and launching one mighty six straight down the ground. Vaas followed his example with some equally meaty blows.
But Dilshan was taking unsustainable risks and eventually overboiled, heaving wildly against a straight ball from Astle. It was an ugly and reckless smear that took the gloss off an entertaining innings. His departure hurried the match towards its conclusion as Upul Chandana missed a straight ball and Vaas dragged a wide half-volley on to his stumps.
Marvan Atapattu c Fleming b Franklin 16 (47 for 2)
Tried to cover-drive but edged to first slip
Farveez Maharoof c Astle b Mills 36 (95 for 3)
Nicked good ball for comfortable take at second slip
Mahela Jayawardene c McCullum b Franklin 13 (117 for 4)
Decided to leave too late and feathered catch behind
Kumar Sangakkara b Franklin 45 (137 for 5)
Missed full-length inswinger that knocked back his off peg
Thilan Samaraweera c Fleming b Astle 17 (164 for 6)
Prodded forward defensively and edged to first slip
Shantha Kalavitigoda c McCullum b Mills 1 (177 for 7)
Brilliant one-handed catch after nicking outswinger
Tillakaratne Dilshan b Astle 73 (255 for 8)
Bowled after ugly leg-side slog
Upul Chandana b Astle 8 (267 for 9)
Missed straight ball
Chaminda Vaas b Franklin 38 (273 for 10)
Dragged on while trying to carve through the covers
Charlie Austin is the editor of Cricinfo in Sri Lanka.