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GALLE, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - Sri Lanka handed New Zealand a crushing 10-wicket defeat inside three days on Monday to claim the opener of their two-match series and consign the visitors to a fifth successive test loss for the first time in 57 years.
Resuming at 35 for one in their second innings on a blameless pitch in Galle, the Black Caps were skittled out for just 118, including the loss of seven wickets for 61 runs in the morning session.
Spinner Rangana Herath was once again the tormentor-in-chief, securing the man-of-the-match award by taking six for 43 to follow up on his first innings haul of 5-65.
The home side were left requiring just 93 to win and Thranaga Paranavitana (31) and debutant Dimuth Karunaratne (60) knocked off the runs before the tea break.
The defeat meant that for the first time since 1955 - before they won a match at the highest level - New Zealand have lost five tests in a row, following 2-0 series losses against the West Indies and India earlier this year.
"That's not a nice statistic to hear and we have got to put it right quickly," captain Ross Taylor told reporters.
"It will be difficult in Colombo (for the next test) and then in South Africa, it won't get any easier, but we need to pick ourselves up.
"It was a good wicket, as they showed when they batted in the second innings but Herath put us under pressure and he was too good for us at the end of the day. We need a method and a plan to play him for the next match."
In New Zealand's second innings, only Daniel Flynn reached 20 and the highest partnership was the last-wicket stand of 21 between Kruger van Wyk (13 not out) and Trent Boult (13).
Herath ripped the heart out of the New Zealand line-up, trapping Taylor lbw for 18, bowling Flynn, and then removing James Franklin and Doug Bracewell in successive deliveries.
The left-armer's return of 11-108 represent the best match figures in the history of Sri Lanka tests against New Zealand and made him the leading wicket-taker for 2012.
Herath now has 46 wickets from seven tests, one more than England's Graeme Swann, whose six wickets against India in Ahmedabad took him to 45 victims in 11 matches.
"Rangana Herath was amazing and he has taken responsibility after Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan) and Lasith Malinga," Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said.
"He has been the leader of the pack for us and he has been wonderful for the last 12 to 18 months and the others have worked around him."
Seamer Nuwan Kulasekara (2-28) caused the initial damage on Monday morning, bowling Martin Guptill and dismissing Kane Williamson, brilliantly caught down the leg-side by Prasanna Jayawardene.
Off-spinner Suraj Randiv also weighed in with two wickets, dismissing Tim Southee, stumped from the final ball before lunch, and Boult, caught by Mahela Jayawardene at slip.
With Southee, New Zealand's leading bowler in the first innings when he took 4-46, off the field during Sri Lanka's run-chase because of a groin strain, Karunaratne and Paranavitana knocked off the required runs in 18.3 overs.
The second and final test of the series starts in Colombo on Sunday.
Editing by John O'Brien