In conditions where the old ball did nothing and New Zealand’s three first-choice quicks produced innocuous medium-pace, Neil Wagner ran in relentlessly with tremendous stamina, sending down a barrage of short deliveries, harrying the batsmen at around 140 kph and broke Sri Lanka’s resistance. Until Wagner came on, Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews had been untroubled and scored freely, but once he broke through his one wicket quickly led to many, and New Zealand completed a 122-run victory after lunch on the final day in Dunedin, reports Cricinfo.
Before Brendon McCullum turned to Wagner, Sri Lanka made 45 runs in 15.5 overs, and Mitchell Santner and Doug Bracewell had just begun to control a previously brisk run rate. Wagner immediately resorted to a short-pitched attack from over the wicket – like he had done on the third day – targeting the right-hand batsman’s ribs with men catching close on the leg side.
Chandimal had been cover-driving and cutting Trent Boult and Tim Southee, his fierce punishment of anything loose taking him swiftly to a half-century. Mathews had played with softer hands and a straighter bat, batting with calm. Wagner gave them no width, no opportunity to get on the front foot, hustling them with pace, forcing hurried evasive actions and awkward fends off the body.
Wagner’s method of attack had become so ingrained in the batsman’s psyche that they expected little else from him. And so Mathews, after moving hurriedly towards the off side to let two consecutive short balls whizz past his ribs, began to play the third delivery in a similar manner. Except that this time Wagner bowled a full length. The ball crashed into the inside of his front pad, shot between his legs and flattened middle stump. Mathews had not even played a shot, and was the first Sri Lankan batsman to not be caught in this Test.
Chandimal had to shelve his cavalier approach against Wagner. He had got to 50 off 90 balls – scoring 19 off 26 this morning – but made only eight off his next 41 deliveries. Subdued into a defensive mind-set, he padded up to a ball from the left-arm spinner Santner that went on with the arm, and was adjudged lbw not offering a shot. After a partnership of 56, Mathews and Chandimal had fallen with the score on 165.
Wagner now went around the wicket to aim at the ribs of the two left-handers – Kithuruwan Vithanage and Milinda Siriwardana. He pinned them to the crease with his length, and then bowled a fast full-toss at Siriwardana, who was hit on the back pad as he squared up in his crease. The umpire Nigel Llong gave him lbw but Siriwardana successfully reviewed the decision, replays surprisingly suggesting the ball would have missed off stump, perhaps because Wagner had delivered from extremely wide of the crease.
Wagner was given the second new ball for the last delivery of his first spell, which comprised eight overs at speeds that did not ebb.
Southee took two deliveries to strike with the new ball, swinging it back into Vithanage from over the wicket, hitting the left-hander’s pads. Vithanage had played an enterprising innings, a run-a-ball 38 full of shots.
The slide was swift after lunch. Boult struck in the third and fifth over of the second session – drawing an edge from Rangana Herath and having Siriwardana caught at short cover, both batsmen not bothering with defence.
Sri Lanka went down swinging, and were bowled out for 282. However, the fact that an inexperienced batting line-up had lasted 95.2 overs after playing 117.1 in the first innings will be some consolation for a team rebuilding from the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.