First Test Match


Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debuts: Sri Lanka - C.P.Senanayake

New Zealand had not lost a Test at the Basin Reserve since 1967-68, but this run seemed to be over when they were dismissed for 174 on the opening day. After that dismal performance, however, batsmen prospered; whereas twelve wickets fell on the first day, only eleven went during the next four, while a host of records were rewritten. Most notably, Jones and Crowe shared a world-record Test partnership of 467, also the highest first-class stand by a New Zealand side, and a record for the third wicket anywhere. Aravinda de Silva's 267 was the best Test score by a Sri Lankan, and a Test record for the Basin Reserve until, two days later, it was surpassed by Crowe's 299, also the highest Test innings for his country, and the highest first-class score on the ground. Sri Lanka and New Zealand both made their biggest totals, with the latter's 671 for four being the highest in the second innings of a Test, and the first over 600 in a Test at the Basin Reserve.

There had been much rain before the match, and Wellington lived up to its windy city reputation. On the first day, a gale often reached 85 miles per hour: the umpires dispensed with bails, until they found some lined with steel rods; batsmen struggled against the wind on their all-too-regular return to the haven of the pavilion; and some television cameramen had to abandon scaffolding which looked dangerously askance. Even if the pitch, initially, favoured the seamers, Sri Lanka deserved their success in bundling out New Zealand for the lowest score of the series. Labrooy had a stiff task, bowling all but six overs into the fierce wind, but he was remarkably accurate and did so much with the ball that he won wide admiration for his stamina and skill. He had figures of two for 9 in his first nine overs. His partner, Ratnayake, bowled a demanding 105-minute spell downwind, the Sri Lankan fielding was sound, and Tillekeratne held four catches behind the stumps, including a blinder off Crowe. At the start Mahanama injured a finger in the slips, which ended his tour, while the only flaw occurred when Morrison was dropped in the slips; he and Watson added 24 for the last wicket. Of the batsmen, only Smith, with 28 at a run a ball, looked at home.

Sri Lanka lost two wickets before the close, but the next day they advanced by 318 for the loss of only one wicket, that of Gurusinha, who played a competent innings to add 143 with Aravinda de Silva. The bowlers were wildly erratic, evidently expecting the ball to move awkwardly and to steeple occasionally, and they were taught a stern lesson by the magnificent De Silva. He hooked anything short with immense profit during his first 100 runs, made from 124 balls, and then added almost arrogant cover drives and square cuts. He reached 203 in six hours, and remained dominant on the third morning, adding 64 in 83 balls. His partnership of 178 with Ranatunga was a record for Sri Lanka against New Zealand, and when, after lunch, De Silva was one of three victims for Morrison in seven balls, he had batted for 509 minutes, faced 380 balls and, in an unforgettable display, hit 40 fours. Sri Lanka went from 427 for four at lunch to 497 all out.

New Zealand faced a deficit of 323, but the weather was fine, there was little wind and the pitch was ideal. Wright and Franklin put on a studious 91 in 41 overs before stumps, and on the fourth day New Zealand added 278 for the loss of two wickets, notwithstanding stouthearted Sri Lankan bowling and 45 minutes lost to rain. The openers' 134 was a new mark for New Zealand's first wicket against Sri Lanka, and although Franklin was ill at ease, Wright played confidently. Similarly in the record third-wicket partnership, Jones was, in the main, defensive, whereas Crowe was at the top of his bent. They made the draw almost inevitable. On the final day, Jones was in more assertive mood on his way to a career-best 186. He stayed 562 minutes and 454 balls, striking fifteen fours, while his captain, Crowe, batted for 610 minutes and 523 balls, hitting 29 fours and three sixes. Everybody, including the Sri Lankans, was disappointed that he did not reach 300. He was caught behind 1 run short, with three more balls possible, and after the match commented: It's a bit like climbing Everest and pulling a hamstring in the last stride.

Sri Lanka had competed all the way, but the pitch was easy, and they compounded their difficulties by bowling 35 no-balls. Tillekeratne did not concede a bye in 220.3 overs and 671 runs, yet another record in Test cricket, and there was only one bye in the 1,342 runs scored in the match.

Man of the Match: M. D. Crowe.

Close of play: First day, Sri Lanka 41-2 (A. P. Gurusinha 17*, P. A. De Silva 0*); Second day, Sri Lanka 359-3 (P. A. De Silva 203*, A. Ranatunga 52*); Third day, New Zealand 91-0 (T. J. Franklin 24*, J. G. Wright 55*); Fourth day, New Zealand 369-2 (A. H. Jones 82*, M. D. Crowe 126*).

© John Wisden & Co