First Test Match


Long, slow innings by Kuruppu, Sri Lanka's 25-year-old wicket-keeping opener, and Jeff Crowe, in his first Test as New Zealand's captain, sentenced this match to tedium and a draw. Broken records and personal achievements, however, meant it was not without historical significance. Kuruppu, who had previously played in 21 one-day internationals, became the first Sri Lankan to score a hundred on his Test début (361 minutes, 253 balls, fifteen fours); his unbeaten 201 was the highest for Sri Lanka in Tests and made him the third batsman to score a double-hundred in his first Test match. On the other side of the ledger, it was also the slowest Test double-hundred, taking 776 minutes during which he faced 517 balls and hit 25 fours. Only Hanif Mohammad (970 minutes) and L. Hutton (797 minutes) had batted longer in a Test match. Kuruppu then kept wicket throughout the New Zealand innings, the first time a player on his début had been on the field all five days. Like his counterpart, Smith, the New Zealand wicket-keeper, he did not let past one bye.

Jeff Crowe, who took his team to safety from a position of 99 for four, batted for 609 minutes, faced 397 balls and hit thirteen fours. His hundred, in 515 minutes off 331 balls, was the third slowest in Tests, while his unbeaten partnership of 246 with Hadlee was the highest for New Zealand's sixth wicket against any country. Hadlee's 151 not out, his second hundred and highest score in 70 Tests, came off 243 balls in 407 minutes and contained two sixes and fourteen fours. On the third morning, in dismissing Ratnayake, he drew level with D. K. Lillee (also 70 Tests) as the second-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket (355). Soon afterwards, Chatfield claimed his 100th Test wicket when Anurasiri was caught behind.

The docile nature of the pitch and the oppressive, humid atmosphere deprived New Zealand of any advantage they hoped to gain by inserting Sri Lanka. Only one wicket fell in each session on the first day. Dias sparkled briefly, but apart from Kuruppu, only Madugalle, who added 109 with him, batted with true authority. His 59 runs on the second afternoon came from 112 balls, and it needed a brilliant catch on the third morning by Hadlee, at gully, to dismiss him. In the field, New Zealand kept to their task well, but they paid heavily for dropping Kuruppu four times; at 31, 70, 165 and 181. Sri Lanka's declaration, 50 minutes before tea on the third day, came as a relief.

Bad light, which had cut short the first day by an hour and a half, took 39 minutes from the last session as New Zealand began their innings, and it cost another 80 minutes at the end of the fourth day. By then, Hadlee having struck 40 in 47 balls - in stark contrast to Jeff Crowe's 42 in 291 minutes - New Zealand had avoided the follow-on. Ratnayeke, taking two for 5 in six overs, had threatened to open up the game, but the New Zealand captain was immovable. Taking 80 balls to reach 10, he remained an hour on 15, added 61 with Gray in 175 minutes, and in the last session scored just 10 runs. Time had ceased to matter. The spectators lost interest, and not even free admission could attract them to watch as Crowe and Hadlee batted throughout the final day. The umpires drew stumps with sixteen overs remaining.

Close of play: First day, Sri Lanka, 141-3 (D. S. B. P. Kuruppu 66*, A. Ranatunga 3*); Second day, Sri Lanka 317-5 (D. S. B. P. Kuruppu 153*, R. S. Madugalle 59*); Third day, New Zealand 51-2 (A. H. Jones 19*, M. D. Crowe 0*); Fourth day, New Zealand 214-5 (J. J. Crowe 42*, R. J. Hadlee 40*).

© John Wisden & Co