CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AFP) – New Zealand wrapped up a win against Sri Lanka by eight wickets on Monday to cap their most successful year in Test cricket.
Set a meagre 105-run target on the fourth day of the first Test in Christchurch, they took 30.4 overs to complete the victory with Ross Taylor not out 39 and Kane Williamson on 31.
It means New Zealand have won five Tests in a calendar year for the first time after enjoying 2014 series wins at home against India (1-0) and away in the West Indies (2-1). They also drew a series with Pakistan (1-1) in the UAE earlier this month.
New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum said the platform for victory had been set by scoring 441 in the first innings after losing the toss and being put into bat on a green, bowler-friendly wicket
“We desperately wanted to bowl but we found a way with the bat to make a score that was going to be competitive,” he said.
“Then, when you’ve got the seamers that we do have, who are swinging the ball in the air and getting bounce off the wicket, you’re always going to be in with a chance.”
Although Williamson and Taylor steered New Zealand home, the victory was built on McCullum’s swashbuckling 195 first innings knock and the lethal swing and seam bowling of Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said the game was as good as over on the first day when McCullum cut loose.
“You can’t do much when a guy walks in and gets almost a double hundred in a couple of sessions,” he said.
“It was an unbelievable innings by Brendon. It was one of the best I’ve seen. He was playing like a Twenty20. It was just going all over the park. He was just smashing it, and whoever came his way went for a lot of runs.”
After Sri Lanka were forced to follow on 303 runs in arrears of New Zealand’s 441, they ground out a gritty 407 but the size of the first innings deficit meant New Zealand were never under any serious threat.
Sri Lanka resumed their second innings on Monday at 293 for five and cautiously picked off the 10 runs they need to make New Zealand bat again before Southee struck in a high-class spell with an ageing ball that produced three wickets for 19.
Sri Lanka slumped to 325 for eight and when off-spinner Mark Craig dismissed Prasanna Jayawardene (23) it became 348 for nine.
Only lusty hitting by Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal, who added 59 for the last wicket, took New Zealand’s target past 100. Nightwatchman Tharindu Kaushal was Southee’s first victim when he edged a seaming delivery to Craig at second slip.
Angelo Mathews reached 66 before he pulled at a Southee bouncer and was caught down the leg side by wicketkeeper BJ Watling.
Southee claimed his third wicket of the session when Dhammika Prasad nicked to Taylor at first slip.
Southee featured in the remaining two dismissals, catching Jayawardene (23) off Craig and Lakmal (16) from the bowling of Trent Boult leaving Eranga undefeated on a career-high 45.
Southee finished with four for 91 and Boult, who removed the top order on Sunday, returned figures of four for 100.
New Zealand lost both openers in their brief run chase with Tom Latham out for 17 and Hamish Rutherford for 10.
New Zealand had previously won four Tests in a year five times, most recently in 2008. They are in an unbeatable position in the series with the second and final Test starting in Wellington on Saturday.