The way the fourth day had panned out , only one wicket, New Zealand would have known going through the Sri Lanka batting line-up was not going to be easy. The visitors had played out almost 11 hours in the second innings of the Christchurch Test without Kumar Sangakkara.
The pitch was flatter in Wellington and Sangakkara was back in form. But once New Zealand picked up four wickets including Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews for single digit scores in the first session, the result was more or less decided.
Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell did the early damage before Mark Craig ran through the tail to complete one of New Zealand’s most remarkable Test wins. It was only the second time they had recovered from a deficit of more than 100 to win a game, the last instance being their five-wicket win against Pakistan almost 21 years ago. The situation in this Test had been bleak too, until Kane Williamson and BJ Watling turned the tables on Sri Lanka with a record 365-run sixth-wicket stand.
Batting had seemed easy then and it would have lent Sri Lanka the belief this match could be saved. But they suffered the big blow in the first half-hour of the day. Sangakkara had just clipped Tim Southee through square leg to pick up his first boundary. He was not troubled once during his brief stay, defending comfortably off the back foot and denying Kaushal Silva’s calls for dicey runs in loud and clear terms. He appeared every bit the fourth-innings saviour Sri Lanka needed. Moreover, neither Boult nor Southee managed any movement despite moisture in the air.
It was perhaps this lack of lateral movement or the assured strokeplay from Silva at the other end that coaxed Sangakkara into a loose shot. Boult pushed a length ball a bit wide outside off. Sangakkara had left a few, ducked under others that were not there to hit, and chose to chase this particular delivery, but it flew past the bat. There was not much support from behind the stumps for Boult’s appeal for caught behind, but as Brendon McCullum put it, “it was worth” a review.
With the edge in question – the under edge of the bat, hidden from the Hot Spot view – the third umpire overturned the on-field call on the basis of a faint spike on the Snickometer. New Zealand were buoyed and Sangakkara, who had appeared confident while waiting for the decision, was visibly disappointed as he walked back. It was the third time this series that Sangakkara had fallen to Boult. With him went a fair chunk of Sri Lanka’s resistance.
The other major blow came at the stroke of lunch. Mathews had been in for ten minutes and was almost bowled through the gate by Craig, but the bounce carried the ball just over the stumps. He wasn’t so lucky three balls later. Williamson leaped up to a thick edge, got both hands on the ball, saw it pop out, yet still managed to grab the rebound one-handed. Sangakkara and Mathews contributed 13 runs between them.
Mathews had come to the crease at the dismissal of Silva, who had looked the most solid batsman. He ran his runs hard, drove anything pitched in his half, and reached his half-century with a paddle shot off Craig. The only time he made a mistake – an outside edge off Bracewell – he was snaffled up brilliantly by second slip. Like Silva, Lahiru Thirimanne too had no issues and helped himself to his third Test fifty.
Thirimanne remained unbeaten on 62, but had to watch his partners succumbing to spin. After a 51-minute resistance, Prasanna Jayawardene uncharacteristically drove a wide delivery straight to Williamson at cover. Dinesh Chandimal did not hold himself back against Craig, swinging at a couple for boundaries, but was caught in the crease to a straighter one and edged it to the keeper. Rangana Herath was trapped lbw next ball and the innings ended 17 minutes later when Southee yorked Nuwan Pradeep. (ESPNcricinfo)