Neil Wagner’s “miracle” ball helped New Zealand complete a 122-run victory over Sri Lanka in the first Test in Dunedin.
Set 405 to win, Sri Lanka resumed on 109-3 looking to bat out the final day to secure a draw and Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal survived an hour.
But Wagner followed two short balls to Mathews (25) with a fuller delivery to bowl the Sri Lanka captain and break a 56-run fourth-wicket partnership.
Chandimal (58) went 17 balls later and the tourists subsided for 282.
“Neil Wagner really stepped up for us,” New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said of the left-arm seamer who was recalled after a year out to play his 18th Test.
“Once he got that breakthrough, got Angelo out, then we certainly relaxed the shoulders and were able to push home the advantage.
“It was beautifully set up. Wags decided that at some stage he was going to bowl the miracle ball, try and hit the base of leg stump and in the end it split his defence.”
Mathews, who acknowledged being caught in a Wagner “trap”, added the match was a learning experience for his young side.
Kithuruwan Vithanage was playing in his ninth Test while Udara Jayasundera, Milinda Siriwardana, Kusal Mendis and Dushmantha Chameera have only nine Tests between them.
“Most of the batters were solid in technique, it’s just the mindset that we’ve got to shift around a little bit,” he said.
Mathews’ dismissal left Sri Lanka 165-4 and they failed to add to that total before Chandimal was trapped leg before wicket by spinner Mitchell Santner.
Vithanage took the attack to New Zealand, hitting six fours and one six in a run-a-ball 38 but he was out lbw to Tim Southee as the tourists reached lunch on 224-6.
Trent Boult then claimed two quick wickets as the remaining four fell in 11 overs after the interval.
The second Test starts in Hamilton on 18 December, providing McCullum with the chance to break Adam Gilchrist’s record for the most sixes in Test matches.
McCullum equalled the former Australia wicketkeeper on 100 with two sixes in his six-ball 17 not out in New Zealand’s second innings.