Sri Lanka whitewash New Zealand

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka claimed second spot behind South Africa in the official rankings as they beat New Zealand by 96 runs in the final Test to sweep the series 2-0 today.

Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath took five wickets as the Kiwis, set a victory target of 494 runs, were bowled out for 397 in

their second innings just before tea on the fifth day. 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. 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 the world 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.

The hosts, who were joint second in the rankings with India, needed to win both Tests to claim the No 2 spot on their own. India are now third while Ashes losers Australia take fourth

place. The success leaves Kumar 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.

New Zealand, who resumed at 182-6, lost just one wicket in the morning session as they went

to lunch on 302-7, the merest whiff of an unlikely

upset in their nostrils. Oram was dismissed just before the break when he drove part-time spinner Tillakaratne Dilshan uppishly to the cover region where Sangakkara took an overhead catch.

Sri Lanka suffered a minor setback before lunch when Muttiah Muralitharan limped off with a groin strain after bowling three balls of his 21st over. Thilan Thushara completed the over. But Muralitharan, Test cricket’s leading bowler, returned after lunch to have Jeetan Patel (12) caught at short-leg and then had Vettori snapped up in the deep to signal Sri Lanka’s victory.