New Zealand completed a 193-run victory and 2-0 series sweep against Sri Lanka on the final day of the second test at the Basin Reserve last week. Craig took three wickets after lunch, including two in two balls, to help complete a remarkable turnaround for the hosts, who had looked likely to lose the game inside three days at one point.
"That's the beauty about this team, all the boys chip in and shows when we put it all together what we can do," Craig said of the team's fightback from a seemingly impossible position on the third day. "I think the way we played in Christchurch and followed up here was awesome, so two very good wins."
Lahiru Thirimanne was left unbeaten on 62, while Nuwan Pradeep was bowled by Tim Southee for one as the visitors were dismissed for 196. Sri Lanka had resumed on 110 for five after lunch but had given up any pretence of chasing the 390 runs they needed to win the game and level the series with survival uppermost on their minds.
Craig, however, managed to tempt a loose shot from Prasanna Jayawardene, who slapped the ball to Kane Williamson at cover for 10, then had Dinesh Chandimal caught behind by BJ Watling for 13. The offspinner trapped Rangana Herath lbw on the next ball and while Suranga Lakmal saw off the hat-trick delivery, Sri Lanka's resistance was virtually over at 156 for eight.
Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell had earlier ripped through the top of Sri Lanka's innings in the first session, aided by some superb catching in the slips cordon. Boult removed nightwatchman Dhammika Prasad (six) and Kumar Sangakkara (five) in quick succession early in the session before Bracewell struck twice shortly before lunch.
The recalled seamer removed opener Kaushal Silva, who had just scored his seventh Test half century but was then caught by Craig in the slips, before Angelo Mathews was caught for eight by Williamson in the gully.
Brief scores: New Zealand 221 and 524/5 dec. beat Sri Lanka 356 and 196 (Thirimane 62, Silva 50; Criag 4/53, Bracewell 2/25, Boult 2/55) by 193 runs.
NZ complete turnaround with big win
New Zealand 221 (Williamson 69, Pradeep 4-63) and 524 for 5 dec (Williamson 242*, Watling 142*) beat Sri Lanka 356 (Sangakkara 203*, Chandimal 67) and 196 (Thirimanne 62*, Craig 4-63) by 193 runs
The way the fourth day had panned out - only one wicket - New Zealand would have known going through the Sri Lanka batting line-up was not going to be easy. The visitors had played out almost 11 hours in the second innings of the Christchurch Test without Kumar Sangakkara. The pitch was flatter in Wellington and Sangakkara was back in form. But once New Zealand picked up four wickets - including Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews for single-digit scores - in the first session, the result was more or less decided.
Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell did the early damage before Mark Craig ran through the tail to complete one of New Zealand's most remarkable Test wins. It was only the second time they had recovered from a deficit of more than 100 to win a game, the last instance being their five-wicket win against Pakistan almost 21 years ago. The situation in this Test had been bleak too, until Kane Williamson and BJ Watling turned the tables on Sri Lanka with a record 365-run sixth-wicket stand.
Batting had seemed easy then and it would have lent Sri Lanka the belief this match could be saved. But they suffered the big blow in the first half-hour of the day. Sangakkara had just clipped Tim Southee through square leg to pick up his first boundary. He was not troubled once during his brief stay, defending comfortably off the back foot and denying Kaushal Silva's calls for dicey runs in loud and clear terms. He appeared every bit the fourth-innings saviour Sri Lanka needed. Moreover, neither Boult nor Southee managed any movement despite moisture in the air.
It was perhaps this lack of lateral movement or the assured strokeplay from Silva at the other end that coaxed Sangakkara into a loose shot. Boult pushed a length ball a bit wide outside off. Sangakkara had left a few, ducked under others that were not there to hit, and chose to chase this particular delivery, but it flew past the bat. There was not much support from behind the stumps for Boult's appeal for caught behind, but as Brendon McCullum put it, "it was worth" a review.
With the edge in question - the under edge of the bat, hidden from the Hot Spot view - the third umpire overturned the on-field call on the basis of a faint spike on the Snickometer. New Zealand were buoyed and Sangakkara, who had appeared confident while waiting for the decision, was visibly disappointed as he walked back. It was the third time this series that Sangakkara had fallen to Boult. With him went a fair chunk of Sri Lanka's resistance.
The other major blow came at the stroke of lunch. Mathews had been in for ten minutes and was almost bowled through the gate by Craig, but the bounce carried the ball just over the stumps. He wasn't so lucky three balls later. Williamson leaped up to a thick edge, got both hands on the ball, saw it pop out, yet still managed to grab the rebound one-handed. Sangakkara and Mathews contributed 13 runs between them.
Mathews had come to the crease at the dismissal of Silva, who had looked the most solid batsman. He ran his runs hard, drove anything pitched in his half, and reached his half-century with a paddle shot off Craig. The only time he made a mistake - an outside edge off Bracewell - he was snaffled up brilliantly by second slip. Like Silva, Lahiru Thirimanne too had no issues and helped himself to his third Test fifty.
Thirimanne remained unbeaten on 62, but had to watch his partners succumbing to spin. After a 51-minute resistance, Prasanna Jayawardene uncharacteristically drove a wide delivery straight to Williamson at cover. Dinesh Chandimal did not hold himself back against Craig, swinging at a couple for boundaries, but was caught in the crease to a straighter one and edged it to the keeper. Rangana Herath was trapped lbw next ball and the innings ended 17 minutes later when Southee yorked Nuwan Pradeep.
Lanka suffer 'shocking' loss against New Zealand
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews struggled Wednesday to understand how his side went from a position of dominance to lose the second Test against New Zealand in Wellington by 193 runs.
Sri Lanka collapsed after their mainstay Kumar Sangakkara was sensationally given out cheaply in their second innings by the review system when a draw, and possibly a remarkable series levelling win, were still possible.
After Sangakkara had moved to one behind the legendary Don Bradman for the most double centuries with his 203 in the first innings, Sri Lanka had a comfortable 135-run lead.
Victory seemed a formality when they had New Zealand at 159-5 in their second innings, a mere 24 runs ahead with more than two days to play.
But sloppy fielding allowed New Zealand to total 524-5, with four chances wasted to remove Kane Williamson who went on to make an unbeaten 242 after first being dropped on 29.
Facing a tough but not improbable target of 390 to win, Sri Lanka reached 61-2 when Sangakkara was dismissed for five in the morning session of the last day and the rest of the batting limply folded.
"It was a shocking turnaround," Mathews responded when questioned why Sri Lanka lost a game they had in control.
The first problem was the fielding and the succession of lives afforded Williamson.
"If we had held on to our catches, it would have been a different story. But they were able to reverse the pressure on us and we just couldn't hold on," he said.
"You can't really drop those sitters when you're on the way to winning the game and you are desperate to win the game."
But the main calamity came when a flyer from New Zealand quick Trent Boult flew past Sangakkara when Sri Lanka were 61-2 in the second innings.
Boult gave a half-hearted appeal, wicketkeeper BJ Watling seemed disinterested, but with nothing to lose New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum thought it was worth seeking a review.
After countless inconclusive replays, third umpire Bruce Oxenford suspected there was enough sound and touch that the ball had feathered the bat and Sangakkara was on his way.
"Umpires have a tough job at hand and you can't really comment (on the review system). You have to be careful with that," Mathews said.
"That's the way it goes and unfortunately, or fortunately, we have to take it as it comes."
Despite the controversial dismissal, Mathews felt he was let down by the lack of fight from the remainder of his batting line up as the last eight wickets fell for 135 runs.
"He was the man in form and we needed somebody to bat through the innings and Sanga's wicket was the crucial one," he said.
"We had to build up partnerships around him but I think we shouldn't put a lot of pressure on him. He is a world class player and one of the best we have seen, but we also need the youngsters to grab hold of their opportunities and score some runs.
"Slowly but surely the youngsters will learn but this is international cricket and we can't expect one person to score all the time so we need to grab hold of our opportunities and try and be consistent."