Sri Lanka’s plans to survive a minimum of 98 overs – or become only the fifth team in test history to achieve a target in excess of 400 – unravelled in the first session of the final day when Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal triggered an inexorable slide to their fourth successive loss to the Black Caps.
The duo’s departure when the score was 165 shortly after drinks ensured it was only a matter of time before Brendon McCullum toasted his last test on his home ground in appropriate fashion.
Baffling shot selection by Mathews and Chandimal effectively removed a fifth draw from seven tests at the venue, unless the weather intervened.
Mercifully the forecast was accurate and the home side, which last experienced defeat in New Zealand to South Africa at Hamilton in 2012, head to Seddon Park for Friday’s final test with renewed confidence following the recent series loss in Australia.
Sri Lanka offered only token resistance after the two most reliable strokemakers departed, an unlikely quest for 405 ended on 282 early in the middle session when tail-ender Suranga Lakmal offered a return catch to Doug Bracewell.
Resuming after lunch 181 short of victory and with at least 64 overs to negotiate, Sri Lanka lost their last realistic hopes of prolonging the contest when Rangana Herath and Milinda Siriwardana were dislodged in quick succession.
In the morning session Chandimal and Mathews had comfortably progressed the score from 109-3 to 163 at drinks – but two runs after refreshments both were back in the pavilion to reflect on their bizarre shot selections.
Mathews, who had looked assured making 25, inexplicably failed to pick up the line of a Neil Wagner delivery angled on leg stump, withdrew the bat and stood perplexed after the ball ricocheted off a pad and uprooted middle stump to end a stolid 56-run partnership.
Barely 12 minutes later Chandimal rejoined his captain after offering no shot to a Mitchell Santner delivery that failed to deviate – another curious dismissal that subsequently exposed an inexperienced batting line-up.
Chandimal, who was 31 overnight, backed up his 83 in the first innings with a half century, the third time he has passed 50 in both innings of a test.
The sub-continent’s leading run scorer in 2015 included 11 boundaries in his half century and also showed a resolute edge to his game by taking just six from the other 79 balls faced before raising his bat.
However, his lapse on 58 meant that good work counted for nought and left the recalled Kithuruwan Vithanage and three-test rookie Siriwardana to take the lead roles in delaying the inevitable.
Chandimal was also guilty of wasting a DRS review when challenging Richard Kettleborough’s decision – ball tracker showed the delivery was hitting the top of off stump.
Siriwardana was more astute when given out leg before wicket by Nigel Llong when one run into his 29 to a Wagner full toss that struck his back pad.
Replays showed the delivery from the left armer, who bowled wide of the crease, was missing leg.
New Zealand squandered one of their reviews when Wagner thought he had Vithanage plumb but Llong’s call was vindicated when replays showed he got bat on the yorker.
Vithanage, Sri Lanka’s last recognised batsman, tried to capitalise on his reprieve by stroking three brisk boundaries but fell leg before wicket to Tim Southee for a run-a-ball 38 after Kettleborough’s judgment was vindicated by the DRS.
Southee led the four-pronged pace attack with 3-52 from 21 overs; Wagner had 2-56 and Boult 2-58.
Bracewell (1-46) was finally rewarded after having two catches dropped off his bowling by doing the job himself – and young spinner Santner claimed 2-53 from 22. (Courtesy Stuff.co.nz)