Sri Lanka whitewash Kiwis despite Vettori ton
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka clinched second spot behind South Africa in the official rankings as they swept aside New Zealand by 96 runs in the final Test on Sunday to sweep the series 2-0.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath claimed five wickets as the Kiwis, set an improbable victory target of 494 runs, were bowled out for 397 in their second innings just before tea on the fifth day.
"It's a great achievement to be number two," said Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara. "But a Test is a test when it is played against tougher opponents. We have a long way to go to improve in all forms of the game.
"I think at the moment we are scratching the surface. If we perform consistently in the next two to three years, we can turn back and say we have done well.
"Herath was incredible today, bowling about 50 overs in the hot weather. He is a good companion for Muralitharan because he takes the pressure off him."
The success leaves Sangakkara with four wins in five matches as captain since taking over from Mahela Jayawardene in the preceding home series against Pakistan.
Sri Lanka had to overcome spirited batting by Kiwi captain Daniel Vettori and heavy rain during the lunch break that delayed resumption by 35 minutes to build on their 202-run win in the first Test at Galle.
Vettori hit 140, his fourth Test century, to lead a stirring fightback by the lower order after the top batsmen had failed to put up any resistance.
"To score 400 in the fourth innings was pleasing but it is still disappointing to lose the match," he said. "Some more runs from the guys at the top could have taken the game the full distance."
The left-hander frustrated the Sri Lankans for more than four hours in which he faced 189 deliveries and hit 16 boundaries before he was last man to be dismissed.
Vettori scored 272 runs and claimed 10 wickets in the series, and in the process became only the eighth batsman in history to achieve the double of 3,000 runs and 300 wickets.
Vettori put on 124 for the seventh wicket with Jacob Oram (56) and 69 for the ninth with Iain O'Brien, who kept his captain company at the crease for an hour and 18 minutes while making a paltry 12.
"If we had not lost Oram just before lunch it could have been two very interesting sessions," he said.
"We have got the talent but we are not turning that talent into big scores. I think we have been guilty of trying to force the pace too much, instead of just trying to bat on and on like the Sri Lankans.
"The key was to put up a fight but we were not able to do that in the series."
The hosts, who were joint second in the rankings with India, needed to win both Tests to claim the number two spot on their own. India are now third while Ashes losers Australia take fourth place.
The success leaves Sangakkara with four wins in five matches as Sri Lanka's captain since taking over from Mahela Jayawardene in the preceding home series against Pakistan.
"Herath was incredible today, bowling about 50 overs in the hot weather," he said. "He is a good companion for Muralitharan because he takes the pressure off him."
Vettori hoped for a better showing in the two Twenty20 internationals against Sri Lanka on Wednesday and Friday and the tri-series featuring India which starts here on September 8.
"I think there is a confidence in our side in the shorter format of the game, so hopefully we will see a turnaround in the team's fortunes," he said.