Dushmantha Chameera of Sri Lanka (R) walks off the field with teammates after taking five wickets during day two of the International Test cricket match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at Seddon Park in Hamilton 19 December AFP
Kane Williamson of New Zealand plays a shot (R) in front of Dinesh Chandimal of Sri Lanka (L) on day three of the second Test cricket match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at Seddon Park in Hamilton 20 December. AFP
AFP: Kane Williamson had New Zealand on the brink of victory after a spectacular Sri Lanka collapse on the third day of the second Test in Hamilton on Sunday.
On a day when 16 wickets fell, New Zealand were 142 for five at the close of play, requiring a further 47 runs to claim the Test and sweep the series.
Shortly before lunch on the third day their hopes of a win seemed remote with Sri Lanka 126 runs ahead and with all second innings wickets in hand.
But the tourists’ fortunes swung from commanding to catastrophic when 10 wickets fell for 62.
New Zealand went from being 55 behind on the first innings to chasing a target of 189 to win.
Williamson was not out on 78 at stumps, in sight of his 13th Test century with BJ Watling yet to score.
New Zealand left-arm seamer Neil Wagner called the day “bizarre” while Sri Lanka bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake was not happy his side did not bat safely as instructed.
“Right throughout the short ball was key to get wickets and for us what happened was we hooked,” he said.
“Somehow they went to the middle and didn’t do the right thing. We were trying to go for big ones and it didn’t work and we’re very disappointed.”
Wagner said the short ball strategy came as they felt Sri Lanka were getting away.
“It was a pretty bizarre day, wasn’t it? A lot of wickets fell and to start the day off Sri Lanka were in a strong position,” he said.
The ultimately successful short-pitched strategy was a gamble because “if you don’t get it right you’re going to get hurt, like a couple I bowled didn’t get up high enough and ended up going over the bank for six”.
The one bright spot for Sri Lanka was the emergence of Dushmantha Chameera as a genuine wicket-taker. The right-arm paceman took four for 45 in New Zealand’s second innings to give him nine wickets in the match.
Openers Tom Latham and Martin Guptill fell cheaply as Chameera had New Zealand 11 for 2 before Williamson and Ross Taylor (35) revived the innings with 67 for the third wicket.
Brendon McCullum (18) followed Taylor to the crease for a fourth-wicket stand of 52.
On a firm pitch offering good bounce, Trent Boult was the first of the 16 wickets and last in New Zealand first innings on the sixth ball of the morning.
The inability to control short, accurate deliveries on a firm wicket featured in six of Sri Lankan dismissals - and all six New Zealand wickets on Sunday.
Taylor was caught in a clever piece of fielding at long leg by Jeffrey Vandersay.
When the substitute fielder took the ball he threw it high as his momentum took him over the rope and he then returned to the field to complete the catch.
Sri Lanka had made a good start to building on their first innings advantage with Kusal Mendis and Dimuth Karunaratne putting on 71 in the highest opening partnership for Sri Lanka in 12 months.
But when Doug Bracewell claimed Karunaratne for 27 it ignited the Sri Lanka collapse.
Bracewell had Udara Jayasundera two balls later and Wagner dismissed Dinesh Chandimal for one as Sri Lanka tumbled to 77 for three.
Mendis and Angelo Mathews held the innings together to reach 85-3 at lunch before it completely unravelled after the interval.
Mendis had equalled his Test best 46 when he top-edged Tim Southee and was caught on the boundary by Mitchell Santner.
It was the start of a remarkable burst for Southee in which he took four for 10 in 27 balls. In a day built around the short-ball strategy, Rangana Herath was the only player to be bowled.
Milinda Siriwardana tried to belt the side out of trouble racing to 26 before he slogged at a rare full delivery from Wagner and was caught by Boult at deep mid-wicket.
Southee finished with four for 26.