WELLINGTON: Sri Lankan batsman Kumar Sangakkara joined an elite group of cricketers Saturday when he became only the fifth to make 12,000 runs in his career.
The prolific 37-year-old left-hander reached the milestone when he knocked Trent Boult square for two in Sri Lanka’s first innings of the second Test against New Zealand in Wellington.
Sangakkara started the two-Test New Zealand series on 11,988 runs and after scoring six and one in the first Test in Christchurch, he was determined to get the final five in Wellington.
“When he fails, it’s a coach’s nightmare. You have to throw [balls to Sangakkara] for hours and hours,” captain Angelo Mathews said ahead of the Test.
“He’s been working really hard in the nets and he’s desperate to go out there and get some runs.”
Since launching his Test career in 2000, Sangakkara has made an impressive average of over 58.00, including 37 centuries in 130 Tests. His highest score was 319 against Bangladesh.
He is now number four on the all-time scoring list, although his average is higher even than Indian great Sachin Tendulkar, who tops the ranking with 15,921 runs in 200 Tests at 53.78.
Australian Ricky Ponting (13,378 at 51.85), Jacques Kallis from South Africa (13,289 at 55.37) and India’s Rahul Dravid (13,288 at 52.31) round out the top five.
Last month, Sangakkara became only the fourth batsman to surpass the 13,000-run mark in one-day internationals, achieving the feat in his 386th match.
The ODI list is also headed by Tendulkar, who made 18,426 runs in 463 matches, ahead of Ponting with 13,704 runs from 375 ODIs and Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka, who has 13,430 runs in 445 games.
Red hot green-top
Fifteen wickets fell in a bowlers’ blitz Saturday as Sri Lanka ended the first day of the second Test in Wellington at 78-5 in reply to New Zealand’s first innings 221.
New Zealand’s innings was rocked by batting hero Brendon McCullum’s second-ball duck.
At stumps Sangakkara was 33 not out while recalled New Zealand paceman Doug Bracewell had three for 23.
Bracewell, who was only added to the side after New Zealand viewed the pitch and weather in the morning, believed the home side have the upper hand.
“Looking at where we’ve got them, 220 looks alright. We’re definitely satisfied with how we finished the day,” he said, adding he expected the wicket to speed up.
“Usually when there’s a bit of grass on it, day two and day three it begins to harden up and get a bit quicker.”
With conditions ripe for bowlers, Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews had no hesitation in making New Zealand bat first on a green strip with overcast skies and a blustery wind.
New ball bowlers Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal wasted the advantage in the first session, bowling short and wide, but still managed to remove New Zealand openers Tom Latham for six and Hamish Rutherford for 37.
But the game changed as they pitched the ball up more in the middle session when five New Zealand wickets fell, while the last three New Zealand wickets and five top Sri Lankans were removed after tea.
First Test centurion Dimuth Karunaratne (16) was first to go for Sri Lanka when he was lured into chasing a ball that moved off the seam and edged a comfortable catch to Jimmy Neesham in the slips.
Kaushal Silva, in a cautious start, faced 30 deliveries before he played on Doug Bracewell for five.
Bracewell, recalled to the side in place of Neil Wagner, followed with the dismissal of Lahiru Thirimanne who lobbed a simple catch to Brendon McCullum at mid off without scoring.
Mathews, Sri Lanka’s rock with two half centuries in Christchurch, could only manage 15 before he was squared up by Tim Southee and edged the ball to wicketkeeper BJ Watling.
Prasanna Jayawardene gave Bracewell his third wicket when he was caught off the last ball of the day for six.
As the wickets fell at one end Sangakkara proved an unshakeable force at the other as he easily knocked off the five runs he required to reach 12,000 and cruised through another 28 runs before stumps.
New Zealand made a bright start to the day, reaching 141-2 before the Sri Lankan bowlers found how best to utilise the conditions and the last eight wickets fell for 80.
McCullum’s return to the scene of his greatest triumph, a New Zealand record 302 knock against India last February, only lasted two deliveries.
He had been feted on his return to Wellington and was presented with the keys to the city during a lunch-break ceremony.
But this time there was to be no marathon session in the middle, nor a replay of the rollicking 195 he blasted in a shade over two hours in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Christchurch.
He received a heroes welcome as he strode to the middle eight overs after lunch, played at two deliveries and returned to the shed after chopping a fuller ball from Suranga Lakmal onto the stumps.
Kane Williamson, with 69 and Ross Taylor who made 35 propped up the New Zealand innings with a 79 run stand for the third wicket.
Pradeep was the pick of the Sri Lankan bowlers with four for 63 while Lakmal took three for 71.