Since 1983-84, New Zealand have toured Sri Lanka seven times for bilateral series with an overall record of eight wins from 23 international matches in all formats. Ahead of a full series against Sri Lanka starting October 30, we take a look back at previous bilateral series between the two teams.
1983-84 – NZ won the Tests 2-0, ODIs 2-1
New Zealand first toured Sri Lanka in March 1984, under Geoff Howarth, for three ODIs and three Tests. The tour started with an ODI at Colombo’s SSC which the visitors won commandingly by 104 runs. Then came the Tests. Howarth's side took the first match in Kandy by 165 runs, with the skipper hitting a pair of 60s and Richard Hadlee taking eight wickets. Back at the SSC, Sri Lanka held out for a draw due to some notorious go-slow tactics with the bat which forced New Zealand to dig deep in a mind-numbing match. New Zealand took the series at the Colombo Cricket Club Ground with an innings victory, fashioned by ten wickets to Hadlee (Player of the Series) and John Reid's 180. When the ODIs resumed, Sri Lanka leveled the series 1-1 with debutant pace bowler Shaul Karnain taking 5 for 26 in a low-scorer at Moratuwa. New Zealand won the series a day later with an 86-run victory at the P Sara Oval.
1984-85 – ODIs shared 1-1
New Zealand's next visit was a brief two-ODI contest which was shared one apiece. Sri Lanka took the first match at the P Sara by four wickets thanks to a brisk unbeaten half-century from a 19-year-old Aravinda de Silva, but Jeremy Coney's team hit back at Moratuwa with a seven-wicket win. Chasing just 120, New Zealand stumbled initially before Martin Crowe sealed victory with 52 off 57 balls.
1987 – Test series cancelled after draw
A hastily organized three-Test series in April and May 1987, the first since the end of a violent ethnic conflict, was cancelled after the first match due to bomb explosions in Colombo. The first match in Colombo was one of the dullest draws ever, with just 14 wickets falling across two innings in five days. This was the Test in which Brendon Kuruppu scored the slowest Test double-century in history - on his debut.
1992-93 – Tests drawn; SL won ODIs 2-0
An under-strength New Zealand, led by Crowe, drew the first Test at Morutawa. A century to Ken Rutherford and 51 from debutant Chris Harris took New Zealand to 288 after which Roshan Mahanama's maiden Test century gave the hosts a 39-run lead on the fourth day. New Zealand batted out a draw on a rain-hit fifth day.
After the first ODI was washed out with Sri Lanka well set to take a series lead, the second Test was won by Sri Lanka to take the series. Mahanama again hit a century and Hashan Tillakaratne a dour 93 to take Sri Lanka to 394; the spinners then skittled New Zealand for 102 with John Wright's 30 the highest score; following-on, the visitors made 361 with Crowe hitting his 15th Test century. Sri Lanka needed 70 to win and did it with just one wicket lost. The remaining two ODIs were also won by the hosts, by eight wickets and 31 runs respectively.
1998 – SL won the Tests 2-1
Six years later, New Zealand arrived in Sri Lanka and started superbly with a big win over the hosts at the Premadasa. Taken to 305 by fifties to captain Stephen Fleming and Adam Parore, New Zealand eked out a 20-run lead thanks to an all-round bowling effort. Fleming then hit an outstanding unbeaten 174 in the second innings, with Craig McMillan's 144 taking the total to 444 for 6. Set a massive target of 465, Sri Lanka made 297 with offspinner Paul Wiseman taking 5 for 82 on debut.
The tourists’ batting was nowhere as near as effective in Galle, where Sri Lanka hit back with an innings victory. Kumar Dharmasena and Nirosha Bandaratilleke took ten wickets as New Zealand folded for 193, then Sri Lanka batted once for 323 with Mahela Jayawardene hitting a splendid 167 when the next highest score was 36. Bandaratilleke took five more as New Zealand were shot out for 114.
Sri Lanka took the series at the SSC with victory by 164 runs. None of the New Zealand batsmen were able to really dominate Sri Lanka’s spinners – only Fleming crossed 35 in the match with 76 in the first innings – and the win was sealed on the fourth day.
2003 – Tests drawn 0-0
New Zealand’s batsmen applied themselves far better in the 2003 season and the two Tests were drawn. Fleming arrived and made a career-best unbeaten 274 out of New Zealand’s first-innings 515 for 7 in 174.5 overs at the P Sara, with opener Mark Richardson scoring 85 off 260 balls. Sri Lanka responded with 483 in 152 overs, with Tillakaratne making 144. New Zealand batted out a draw with Fleming making an unbeaten 69 off 234 balls to claim the Man-of-the-Match honours. His sapping effort meant he spent all but 44 minutes of the five days play on the field, and his match aggregate of 343 became a New Zealand record.
Damp weather allowed for just four days of play in Kandy, where a tame draw was played with Sri Lanka’s “negativity” on the final day surprising Fleming. The hosts were set a target of 191 in 38 after bowling New Zealand out for 183, but settled for a draw after the early loss of Sanath Jayasuriya. The highlight of the match was Muttiah Muralitharan’s 450th Test wicket in a record 37th five-wicket haul.
2009 – SL won the Tests 2-0, NZ the T20s 2-0
Two Tests, two big defeats for New Zealand with Thilan Samaraweera the chief tormentor. In Galle, Samaraweera's 159 was one of three centuries that consigned Daniel Vettori’s side to a massive 202-run loss. There were two half-centuries from New Zealand in the match. At the SSC, Samaraweera made 143 and Jayawardene a pair of 90s at his favorite ground as Sri Lanka beat New Zealand by 96 runs. Vettori joined the 300-wicket club during the match.
New Zealand saved some face by winning the two Twenty20 internationals before the tri-series also involving India. The first match was won by three runs with Vettori and Jacob Oram, with a hat-trick giving New Zealand reasons to smile, and the second was more straightforward with Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum setting up a 22-run success.