Fleming saves Kiwis against Sri Lankans

Associated Press

Napier, April 8:

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming batted 2 1-2 hours with an injured hand on Friday to help his side avoid defeat in the drawn first cricket Test against Sri Lanka.

The match ended when bad light at McLean Park forced an end to play early in the final session of the fifth and final day with Sri Lanka, 7-0 in its second innings, chasing an improbable 302 runs for victory.

Fleming was forced to leave the crease when he was only 6, with New Zealand at 77-3, after finding it both painful and difficult to hold the bat with his left hand which had been injured in the field.

He received treatment at the ground and returned to the crease immediately after lunch when New Zealand was reeling at 148-7 — when a match which had been heading for a draw was hanging in the balance.

New Zealand led Sri Lanka by 63 runs on the first innings, posting 561 and dismissing the tourists for 498, and seemed in no danger of losing the match when the final day began.

The complexion of the match changed dramatically before lunch when unorthodox right-armer Lasith Malinga, named man of the match, started a Kiwi collapse which made a Sri Lankan win conceivable.

Malinga and part-time spinner Sanath Jayasuriya ran through the New Zealand middle order, taking five wickets for 84 runs, to limit the lead to 211 with two sessions and three wickets remaining.

Fleming, in pain and obvious difficulty against Malinga, stayed at the crease for 153 minutes,

for the full span of the afternoon session, and was New Zealand’s last man out.

Man of the match Malinga, who took 5-80 in New Zealand’s second innings, had match figures of 9-210.