Boult, openers star in thrilling New Zealand win

A thriller ensued at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui as New Zealand kept Sri Lanka at bay in the first Twenty20 International on Thursday(January 7) by three runs in a veritable thriller.

Backed by half-centuries from Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson, New Zealand posted 182 for 4. In its chase, Sri Lanka was on the rails when reduced to 42 for 4, but Danushka Gunathilaka and Milinda Siriwardana resurrected the innings to make for an enticing finale. However, the visiting side failed to cross the line, the three-wicket hauls from Matt Henry and Trent Boult restricting it to 179 for 9.

Sri Lanka now needs to win the second and final game in Auckland on Sunday, failing which it will slip from first to third in the ICC T20I rankings, behind the West Indies and Australia.

Sri Lanka got off to a dodgy start, and its openers were unable to stitch together a partnership. It was reduced to 42 for 2, with Boult and Henry nipping out the wickets. Tillakaratne Dilshan was dismissed at the start of the second over and Dinesh Chandimal, the captain, was gone in the next as they tried to force the pace against Henry and Boult.

Gunathilaka then steadied things somewhat, adding 42 for the fifth wicket with Siriwardana. However, he was deceived by Ish Sodhi, popping an easy catch to be dismissed for a 29-ball 46.

Siriwardana and Thisara Perera then went about repairing the innings with a stand of 49 in 27 balls for the sixth wicket. Perara (28) and Siriwardana (42) were dismissed within two overs of each other, Henry and Boult again among the wickets.

Despite the crucial blows, Sri Lanka powered on with Chamara Kapugedera (17) and Nuwan Kulasekara (14) keeping up the pressure. On the third ball of the final over, however, Kulasekara was well caught in the deep by Boult. Kapugedera was run out on the next delivery and their dismissals took the sting out of Sri Lanka’s chase.

Earlier, Guptill and Williamson’s half-centuries got New Zealand got off to a flying start, after it was put in. Their two-pronged attack helped New Zealand cross 50 in just 28 balls, and though Nuwan Kulasekara and Jeffrey Vandersay tightened the bowling thereafter, the home side was still ahead, crossing the 100-mark within ten overs.

Sri Lanka got its first breakthrough when the dangerous Guptill was run out for a 34-ball 58. Williamson had called for a quick single only for Kapugedera to throw down the stumps, with Guptill well short of the crease.

Williamson carried on to bring up his own half-century, but was dismissed soon after for a 42-ball 53, pulling Kulasekara straight to Suranga Lakmal at deep midwicket. Kulasekara removed Colin Munro, caught and bowled for 36, even as Ross Taylor scored an unbeaten 22 to help boost the total.