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NZ beat Sri Lanka by eight wickets in first Test

Published:Tuesday | December 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP):

New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by eight wickets in the first Test, completed yesterday, with Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson steering the Black Caps to a four-day victory built upon a strong performance by their pacemen.

Sri Lanka resumed the final day at 293-5 in their second innings and were soon reduced to nine down before Shaminda Eranga (45 not out) and Suranga Lakmal (16) shared a rapid 59-run stand for the final wicket to set New Zealand a target of 105 to win.

That last-wicket stand raised Sri Lanka's hopes of pulling off the rare feat of a Test victory after following on, and there was further encouragement when both New Zealand openers were removed cheaply.

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews boldly chose off-spinner Tharindu Kaushal to share the new ball with Eranga. The gamble played off when Kaushal had Tom Latham (17) caught at slip.

Hamish Rutherford (10) then fended off an Eranga delivery to gully, leaving New Zealand on a nervous 43-2.

However, Williamson (31 not out) and Taylor (39 not out) saw New Zealand to tea without further loss, and they quickly hunted down the remaining runs after the break, completing the run-chase in 30.4 overs.

Pacemen Trent Boult and Tim Southee shared 13 wickets between them for the match, and their efforts to bowl Sri Lanka out for just 138 in their first innings proved decisive.

This was New Zealand's fifth Test victory in 2014, the most in a calendar year in team history.

The win also owed much to captain Brendon McCullum's first-innings 195 - incorporating the fastest century by a New Zealand in Tests - after the hosts had been sent in to bat.

"That's our fifth Test win of the year, which is something we're very proud of being able to achieve," McCullum said.

"Our seamers were once again outstanding and to bowl them out for 130-odd in that first innings was, for me, the winning of the game."

Sri Lanka's performance improved as the days passed, but their early struggles highlighted a lack of preparation in New Zealand conditions ahead of the first Test, having played only one two-day game.

Mathews and veteran Kumar Sangakkara were the only Sri Lanka batsmen to have played previously in New Zealand.

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"The way we batted in that first innings really took us out of the game," Mathews said. "We'll get better and better as time goes on, but you can't really do much when a guy (McCullum) walks in and gets almost a double hundred in a couple of sessions."

The second Test begins in Wellington on Saturday.