An astonishing Test match in Christchurch came down to the final ball, and was decided by mere centimetres in chaotic scenes.
New Zealand star Kane Williamson had to dive as his stumps were thrown down and the Black Caps won with a single bye on the last delivery of the match.
The scores had been tied with two balls remaining, and an Asitha Fernando delivery was not called wide by the umpires despite sailing over the head of Williamson.
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The last delivery missed Williamson’s bat but the batters took off for a run anyway.
Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella attempted to throw down the stumps at the striker’s end, but missed, before Fernando picked up the ball and threw down the stumps at the bowler’s end as Williamson dived.
The umpire sent the decision upstairs and replays showed that Williamson had made his ground barely by three inches before the ball cannoned into the stumps.
The chaos on the final delivery was made even more incredible by the fact that the non-striker, Neil Wagner, was carrying a hamstring injury as well as a bulging disk in his back.
Williamson’s dive saved the umpires from yet another wide drama similar to what occurred in the thrilling finish between New Zealand and England earlier this month where England was denied a win due to an overhead wide going uncalled by the square leg umpire.
Fernando opted to go for two short balls to finish the Test, with Williamson even asking the umpire whether the final ball would be called for a wide as he awaited the third umpire’s verdict on the run out attempt.
It was a heroic century from Williamson that delivered New Zealand an incredible victory.
After being set 285 to win on the final day, the former captain finished on 121 not out as the home side won the match by two wickets.
A result looked like it would be out of the question when the first session on day five was suspended due to wet weather before a thrilling finish which left the cricket world stunned.
New Zealand’s win has massive implications for this year’s World Test Championship final as well, with India set to face Australia as a result of Sri Lanka’s loss.
The match was evenly poised when Tom Latham (24) and Henry Nicholls (20) were both dismissed before the Black Caps’ score passed 100.
However, Williamson found a worthy ally in first-innings centurion Daryl Mitchell, with the pair combining for a match-turning 142-run stand which snuffed out Sri Lanka’s hopes of a famous away win.
Mitchell, who represented Western Australia at the under-19 level, lashed 81 off just 86 deliveries while Williamson was bogged down earlier in his innings.
Williamson gradually upped his tempo following Mitchell’s dismissal with the Black Caps 53 runs away from the target despite wickets falling steadily at the other end.
Fernando bowled beautifully for Sri Lanka, with the right-arm seamer finishing with figures of 3-63 off 19 overs to go along with his 4-85 in the first innings.
Mitchell was named the player of the match for his 102 in the first innings and 81 in the second.
The two sides will meet again in just four days’ time for the second and final Test of the series in Wellington.
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