Black Caps add to list of shame in first test
To the chunky file marked "awful New Zealand third innings batting collapses", put last night's atrocity in Galle at the top.
It's one of the unexplained mysteries of New Zealand cricket that when the test side gets a sniff of a chance, they regularly self-destruct in their second turn at bat.
Exhibit A was presented yesterday when they lost 9-83 in just over two hours to set the hosts a mere 93 for victory in the first test at Galle International Stadium.
Sri Lanka knocked that off by the 19th over for a 10-wicket victory before tea on the third day. It was New Zealand's fifth consecutive test defeat after 2-0 series losses in the West Indies and India. The odds will be short on it becoming six in a row when the second test starts in Colombo on Sunday.
"We need to address it as quick as possible leading into the next match," captain Ross Taylor said.
"We know it's probably going to turn a bit more up in Colombo. [Rangana] Herath bowled very well and put us under pressure the whole time."
Left-arm tweaker Herath was man of the match for his haul of 11-108, including 6-43 in New Zealand's maniacal Monday at the crease.
In the Black Caps' list of shame Old Trafford in 2008 still sits high up; leading by 179 on the first innings courtesy of Ross Taylor's 154 not out, then collapsing for 114 and a heavy defeat to England. Hamilton in early 2011; trailing Pakistan by 92 on the first innings but still in the contest, then shot out for 110. Game over.
The cricketing crime is it takes so much hard toil for a team, especially New Zealand, to get in a strong position, for it to be thrown away so quickly. Tim Southee's outstanding spell of swing bowling, which reduced the hosts to 50-5, counted for nothing.
The tourists began the day 35-1, leading by nine overall and the test evenly poised.
Too meek against spin in the past, New Zealand vowed to be positive in India and Sri Lanka. There's a fine line between positive and reckless, and indecision against a good opponent blurs that line.
Herath, the left-armer whose approach looks innocuous enough, in the mould of compatriot Sanath Jayasuriya, has all the tricks.
His duel with Taylor, New Zealand's captain and best batsman, summed up the day. Herath got two to spin wickedly past the outside edge, then pushed an arm ball through that trapped Taylor on the crease, plumb lbw.
Brendon McCullum threw away his wicket on day two; Daniel Flynn batted responsibly in both innings but was undone by sharp turn and bounce yesterday; James Franklin ended an unhappy test when he got in a tangle and was stumped even when gloveman Prasanna Jayawardene dropped the ball.
While the batting is the big concern, Rob Nicol is the only backup and BJ Watling, the form player of the one-day series, wasn't summoned to the test squad. Nicol may be considered for Franklin to offer another spin option. Doug Bracewell had his poorest test and may be under threat from Neil Wagner or Chris Martin.
Sri Lanka v New Zealand Scoreboard at the completion of the first cricket test on day three at Galle International Stadium yesterday:
New Zealand First innings 221 Sri Lanka First innings 247 New Zealand Second innings (Overnight 35-1) M Guptill b Kulasekara 13
B McCullum c Kulasekara b Herath 13
K Williamson c P. J'wardene b Kulasekara 10
R Taylor lbw b Herath 18
D Flynn b Herath 20
J Franklin st. P. Jayawardene b Herath 2
K van Wyk not out 13
D Bracewell lbw b Herath 0
T Southee st. P. Jayawardene b Randiv 16
J Patel c Karunaratne b Herath 0
T Boult c M. Jayawardene b Randiv 13
Total (all out, 44.1 overs) 118
Fall: 18, 35, 46, 60, 70, 79, 79, 96, 97, 118.
Bowling: N Kulasekara 12-4-28-2, S Eranga 4-2-10-0, R Herath 18-3-43-6, S Randiv 10.1-0-37-2.
Sri Lanka Second innings (target 93) T Paranavitana not out 60
D Karunaratne not out 31
Extras (2w) 2
Total (no wkt, 18.3 overs) 93
Bowling: T Boult 4-1-15-0 (1w), D Bracewell 5.3-0-35-0 (1w), J Patel 5-1-22-0, J Franklin 3-0-15-0, K Williamson 1-0-6-0.
Sri Lanka won by 10 wickets