New Zealand’s lower-order hitting in the first innings, and their rallying with the ball late on day four were crucial moments in the first Test against Sri Lanka. This was what their captain Tim Southee felt, after his team had pulled off a last-ball victory at Hagley Oval – the hosts scrambling to a target of 285 with two wickets to spare.
Oh, plus Daryl Mitchell’s innings – both in the first dig, where he held New Zealand together with his 102, and in the second, when he hit 81, forging a 142-run fourth-wicket partnership with Kane Williamson. In the first innings, Southee hit 25, Matt Henry crashed 72, and Neil Wagner made 27, when New Zealand had seemed like they’d end up with a serious first-innings deficit.
“Daryl’s first innings was a was a massive turning point and it sort of got us back in,” Southee said after the match. “And any time the lower order is able to contribute is massive, and it sort of got us into the lead.
“We were able to eke out runs there, and then on day four, when we were able to bowl them out quickly and now give them a position when they were able to declare and dictate how many runs they wanted – there’s a couple of moments there where you look back on as probably turning points in the game.”
On Williamson, who shepherded the chase, hit a spectacular final boundary through point, and got New Zealand to their target, Southee had this to say: “He’s just a world-class player, and world-class players are able to perform in different conditions and different situations. Even when he was young, he was the guy you leaned on.
“We saw his class even with that last boundary, when he beat two fielders to the big side of the ground. Just the calmness with which he does it is good for the group. Seeing how calm he is in the middle keeps us all calm as well.”
Southee believed being relaxed even in tense situations was something New Zealand prided themselves on.
“It’s just about trying to keep calm. When you’ve got one of our best players out there, that helps as well. We’ve seen it in the last two Tests, and in Pakistan as well. It’s a changing group, but the belief in the guys that that have come in… we’ve had a couple of bad days but being able to bounce back and know that someone’s going to put their hand up – that’s a sign of a good side.”
Daryl MitchellKane WilliamsonNew ZealandNew Zealand vs Sri LankaSri Lanka tour of New ZealandICC World Test Championship
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf