COLOMBO // A defiant knock of 140 from the New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori failed to stop Sri Lanka from winning the second Test by 96 runs and sweeping the series 2-0 yesterday. The 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.
The win meant Sri Lanka moved clear of India as the No 2 team in the world behind South Africa. Before the series, both Sri Lanka and India were tied on points for the second position in the rankings. "It's a great achievement to be No 2," said the 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, 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 some spirited batting by Vettori and heavy rain during the lunch break that delayed resumption by 35 minutes. Vettori hit his fourth Test century to lead a stirring fight back by the lower order after the top batsmen had failed to put up any resistance. It was left to Muralitharan to induce a top edge from Vettori as he was the last wicket to fall. "To score nearly 400 in the fourth innings was pleasing but it is still disappointing to lose the match," said Vettori.
"Some more runs from the guys at the top could have taken the game the full distance. "We have got the talent but we are not turning that talent into big scores." The left-hander frustrated the Sri Lankans for more than four hours and put on 124 for the seventh wicket with Jacob Oram (56) and 69 for the ninth with Iain O'Brien (12). Vettori scored 272 runs and claimed 10 wickets in the series. * AFP