Sri Lanka record resounding win

GALLE: An illness-depleted New Zealand were bamboozled in the face of pace and spin as Sri Lanka cruised to a 202-run victory in the first Test today to lead the two-match series.

The Kiwis, set an improbable target of 413 runs, collapsed to 210 all out in their second innings before tea on the fifth and final day. Off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan claimed 3-88 to take his world record tally to 777 wickets, while left-arm seamer Thilan Thushara and spinner Ajantha Mendis took two scalps each.

The tourists had been left hoping the weather might do them a favour -- only for clear skies to break over the coastal town for the first time since the Test began. Skipper Daniel Vettori battled bravely for two-and-a-half hours to make 67, his 20th Test fifty, sparking a brief resistance by the lower order after the Kiwis were reduced to 86-5.

Jesse Ryder (22), one of the players worst affected by the virus, defended for almost an hour to add 48 for the sixth wicket with his captain before he was caught behind off Muralitharan soon after lunch. Jeetan Patel hit 22 and Brendon McCullum, who was confined to bed on Friday due to fever, made 29 before he was last man to be dismissed, a run-out victim of a direct throw from Muralitharan.

Wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene, returning to the side after missing the previous series against Pakistan with a knee injury, chipped in with three catches and a stumping. New Zealand added seven runs to their overnight score of 30-1 when Thushara bowled Martin Guptill (18) with a superb ball that moved after pitching and clipped the off-stump.

Tim McIntosh, top-scorer in the first innings with 69 but who could not open on Friday evening due to fever, batted for 14 minutes without scoring when he edged a Thushara outswinger. Thilan Samaraweera picked up a low catch at third slip which was referred to the third umpire before the umpires gave the batsman out.

Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara surprisingly handed the ball to part-time spinner Mahela Jayawardene and the former captain struck with his second delivery to claim only his sixth wicket in 106 Tests. Ross Taylor (16) played at a ball down the leg-side and nudged a catch to the wicket-keeper to reduce New Zealand to 45-4 within the first hour. Jacob Oram (21) and Vettori put on 41 for the fifth wicket, but Mendis ended the defiant stand by having Oram leg-before wicket.

The second and final Test will be played at the Sinhalese sports club in Colombo from Wednesday. New Zealand will also play two Twenty20 internationals against Sri Lanka and a limited-overs tri-series with India as the third team.