When New Zealand entered the fourth day’s play in the second Test match against Sri Lanka, they needed 47 runs with five second innings wickets in hand. Kane Williamson finished the match in style with a sparkling unbeaten century. One might feel sorry for the 23-year-old speedster Dushmantha Chameera who did all what was possible by grabbing 9 wickets. He bowled his heart out for Sri Lanka.
However, as Mathews pointed out during the awards presentation, the Sri Lankan batters in the second innings made a mockery of themselves by playing some rash shots to the utter dismay of spectators. Such is the mystery of Test cricket. The game demands skill, patience and perseverance. Sri Lanka demonstrated all of it in most part of the match till that horrible second innings.
Till things began falling apart the visitors were well placed at 71 for no loss (thanks to a superb knock of 46 by 20 year old Kushal Mendis and a patient 27 by Karunaratna) to fold up for a sorry score of 133 in just 36.3 overs. They did notch up their highest opening stand and best-pace-bowling-figures of the year. Yet the batters put themselves down badly.
With this performance, Sri Lanka ended their Test cricket assignments for 2015 with a series loss to New Zealand. It won’t certainly please the cricket loving public back in Sri Lanka as well as some senior cricketers who honestly want to see the national team improving and doing well in overseas test matches.
The 71-run partnership between Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis in the second innings was the highest opening stand for Sri Lanka this year.
Fast bowler Chameera compiled the best bowling figures by a pace bowler in a Test match for Sri Lanka this year – 9/115 (5 for 47 and 4 for 68) during this match. He made his Test debut in June 2015 and has played only four Tests so far (inclusive of this test).
Whitewashed twice within a year, Sri Lanka went to Kiwi Land last year with a hope of winning their first Test series on New Zealand soil in five years. They then had the services of their best batsman (credentials supported by the total number of runs and centuries) Kumar Sangakkara. Herath, as usual, was the only spin warrior, but even then, they were thumped 2-0 largely due to some outstanding batting from skipper MacCullum and the patient Williamson. Both sides got the best returns from their bowlers. It was the New Zealand batting that made the difference in the end.
Twelve months later, Sri Lanka, without Sangakkara, stepped in yet again wanting to win a series. The onus on Mathews increased, but the outcome hasn’t improved. The first Test was a wake-up call for Mathews and the team. Despite a few promising knocks by the ever reliable Chandimal, Mendis, Karunaratna, Siriwardena and Withanage, the others completely failed. The way the Sri Lankans played against part-time spinner Santner tells the story. Finally, Kiwis won the first Test by 122 runs. In the second Test the spirited Sri Lankans switched to a self-destruction mode to gift the series to the Kiwis. After dominating major portions of the Test match, Sri Lanka succumbed to loads of bouncers.
The visitors had a chance to win, but they made a mockery out of their batting in the second innings. Chameera is still finding his feet in Test cricket, but the way he bowled was amazing.
The faster bowlers spearheaded by Chameera put New Zealand under tremendous pressure and also learned quickly by watching the Kiwi speedsters.
It turns out that it was just a formality for the Black Caps to seal the contest on the fourth day. Williamson, who survived a confident appeal for leg before that looked plumb to the naked eye, got the boundaries that eased the pressure on New Zealand. Wicket keeper Watling supported him very well and the duo sealed victory. Mathews employed all frontline bowlers, but nothing worked since he got the field placements totally wrong. This must be a tough loss for Mathews as their second innings score was their lowest total of the year in a Test match.