| Stephen Fleming drives en route to his unbeaten 69 as Tillekeratne Dilshan takes evasive action. (Reuters)
Colombo: Record-breaking New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming emerged as the major winner on Tuesday as the rain-affected first Test against Sri Lanka fizzled out into a draw.
Fleming, who made a Test-best 274 not out in the first innings, was unbeaten on 69 in the second innings as the match crawled to a close on the final day.
That gave him 343 runs in all, a New Zealand record and the 12th highest individual total from a single Test in history.
New Zealand, who made 515 for seven declared in their first innings before dismissing the home side for 483, declared again on 161 for five before both captain shook on a draw.
The left-handed Fleming now averages 83 against the Sri Lankans, having scored one double century, one century and six fifties against them in eight Tests. His previous Test best score of 174 not out also came against them.
“It’s nice to have two good innings of substance in a game,” he said, adding he had opted to open in the second innings since he felt New Zealand could still lose.
Martin Crowe scored 30 and 299 against Sri Lanka in Wellington in 1991 for New Zealand’s previous highest total of 329 in a Test match.
There was some late consolations for the home side’s attack, as 20-year-old leg-spinner Kaushal Lokuarachchi, making his debut, took his first two Test wickets and Muttiah Muralidharan claimed three more to take his career tally to 442.
Off-spinner Muralidharan struck twice in four balls, with Jacob Oram caught by wicketkeeper Romesh Kaluwitharana on 19 and Robbie Hart caught by Sangakkara for a duck.“All players, especially in the first innings, had a taste of Muralidharan, and that’s something that takes time to get used to,” Fleming said, referring to him as “a wizard”.
The other personal highlights came from Hashan Tillekeratne and Daniel Vettori.
“After they got 515, we needed to get to 316 to avoid the follow-on. I was just so impressed with the batters, and the way they came out and managed to save this Test match,” Tillekeratne said.
The Black Caps left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori took three wickets, all leg before, in five balls to wrap up the innings. Vettori had a big leg before shout against Muralidharan turned down with his hattrick ball.
Only one New Zealander has ever claimed a Test hattrick, off spinner Peter Petherick achieving the feat in 1976.Vettori ended with three for 94 from 33 overs while Bond took three for 97 from 28.
The second and final Test begins in Kandy on Saturday.