New Zealand scrapes home in thriller

After super bowling and mediocre batting by both teams, Sri Lanka goes down by one wicket in nail-biting finish

Mitchell McClenaghan (R) and Tim Southee (L) of New Zealand celebrate winning the match (via Getty Images)

New Zealand bowled and fielded brilliantly, went to lunch with not a care and then came back to find the bottom falling out of its innings in its ICC Champions Trophy match against Sri Lanka at Cardiff on Sunday (June 9). Needing just 139 to win, it squeaked home with just a wicket to spare. The climax was farcical, with Tillakaratne Dilshan bowling a wide down the leg side even as Mitchell McClenaghan and Tim Southee hared back and forth with two needed for the win.

Sri Lanka had the outstanding batting and bowling performers in the match – Kumar Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga – but still finished on the losing side after a batting display that was marked by poor shot selection.

There was little hint of the drama to come when New Zealand went to lunch at 26 for 1, having taken just 37.5 overs to bowl Sri Lanka out. Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson made steady progress after lunch before an extraordinary error of judgment gave Sri Lanka a route back into the game.

Malinga bowled a slow loopy full toss, and Williamson ducked, perhaps anticipating a beamer. Struck on the thigh pad with the ball dipping, he was clearly out. The mistake was compounded by a needless review, which would cost New Zealand dearly later.

Rangana Herath trapped Ross Taylor in front in the next over, and Eranga, returning for a new spell, surprised Guptill with some extra bounce, the awkward fend brilliantly caught by a leaping Mahela Jayawardena at slip. In eight balls, New Zealand had lost three wickets for a run.

James Franklin added 21 with Brendon McCullum, but the pressure was mounting, with Sri Lanka appealing vociferously each time the ball went near the pads. Dilshan’s plea against Franklin was eventually heard and New Zealand appeared to be down for the count when the umpire missed the inside edge on to Daniel Vettori’s pad after Malinga had returned for another spell.

With the tension building and Dilshan in the middle of a six-over spell that cost just eight, the McCullum brothers slowly pushed ahead. Nathan was the more aggressive, while Brendon turned over the strike cleverly. Angelo Mathews elected for Eranga and Thisara Perera when both Malinga and Herath had overs in hand, and New Zealand was once again the favourite by the time the change was finally made.

In his first over back, Malinga produced a 120-kph slower ball to bowl Brendon McCullum. In his next over, a yorker that was 20 kph faster did for the other brother, trapped in front with 17 still needed.

Southee and Kyle Mills then rode their luck to within five of the target – Southee was given four after a Malinga yorker thudded into his boot – before Sri Lanka had some good fortune of its own. Perera at mid-on had a shy at the bowler’s end, missed by plenty, and was then mobbed by teammates as the ball dislodged the bails at the striker’s end with Mills well short.

Having decided to bat first on the pitch used for the India-South Africa game on Thursday, Sri Lanka started dreadfully. Mills and Brendon McCullum set the tone with the very first ball. Kusal Perera flashed at one that darted away from him, and McCullum flew to his left to take a stupendous two-handed catch while airborne.

Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara added 27 in even time before a lazy stroke saw Dilshan bowled by Mitchell McClenaghan. With Jayawardena at the crease, Brendon McCullum called on the returning Daniel Vettori, who had dismissed Jayawardena five times previously. Four balls were all it took, and though Jayawardena thought about reviewing the lbw decision, a chat with Sangakkara convinced him that it was pointless.

Dinesh Chandimal hung his bat out to give Mills a second wicket, and it was left to Mathews to try and give Sangakkara the support he needed. With the accent on recovery, it wasn’t a rapid partnership, but it looked to be taking Sri Lanka to respectability until Mathews shuffled too far across to McClenaghan and saw his leg stump uprooted.

New Zealand fielded superbly, cutting off several singles, and it was the perfect foil for a bowling unit that gave little away. Both Vettori and Nathan McCullum were tidy and restrictive on a responsive pitch, while the pace trio threatened constantly.

An awful yes-no-yes mix-up saw Lahiru Thirimanne run out, and Sangakkara seemed to take out his frustration on Williamson, smacking three fours in the same over.

Perera should have gone without scoring, but Southee put down a relatively straightforward caught-and-bowled chance. That reprieve allowed him to add 36 with Sangakkara, the highest stand of the innings, before an impetuous hoick found only deep mid-on.

Sangakkara himself finally succumbed to an undistinguished slog, caught by Williamson at backward point off Nathan McCullum’s bowling for 68, and the rest folded accordion-style as New Zealand wrapped things up early enough for them to be asked to bat before lunch. What followed was just manic.

  • Sahan

    I totally agree with this comment. Pressure builds up due to this stupid and unfair batting order. Thirimanne is a clever young batsman and we have seen his talents. He is very much capable to play according to the situation. So what is the point of playing in down the order.

  • cricfan1000

    If sri lanka are to have any chance in this competition they should have a close look at their batting line up. It has been long since Dilshan, sanga and mahela holding on to no 2,3,4 respectively. Other than an odd exception it has been always like that for last five to six years. This always led to frequent batting collapses, as when ever top three are gone youngsters are left with little or no experience on how to cope with the rising pressure, leaving them in no mans land. Even though this has been the trend no selection panel ever had any say on this. sanga , mahela,dishan being the three main pillars of sri lankan side might have prompted that. But time has come to jayasuriya and co to talk to sanga and mahela whom were groomed under him ,and ask them bat down the order.

    Even a child with little sense of cricket can understand playing thirimanne at no 7 neutralizes any impact that he can have on the game. He can be easily played at no 3 followed by sanga and chandimal & mahela