NZ v Sri Lanka in Cardiff was never going to be a walk in the valleys for either team. Sri Lanka went into the match with the upper hand. From the last 14 ODIs where the two teams have met, NZ have only beaten them once.
Kyle Mills opened the match with a ripping ball that had Perera edging one to McCullum who performed a magnificent diving catch.
A few overs later McClenaghan got the prized wicket of Dilshan. Then it was time for a change of pace as the prodigal son returned with some Left Arm spin to hurrahs from all the stalwarts who had been waiting for 2 years for Dan Vettori to turn his arm over for NZ again. And he didn't disappoint, with a repeat of his last performance two years ago taking Jayawardene LBW again.
Mills was back on the attack taking Chandimal a few balls later for a duck, leaving SL reeling on 34-4
This was a sign of how the BlackCaps were approaching the match and had Kiwis up and down the land on the edge of their late night sofa. The bowling attack have already had a good workout against England in both home and away series, and have proven to be just the kind of determined and aggressive attack that can win matches.
McClenaghan struck again spinning Mathews leg stump in the air, KSW got Thirimanne and Mitch claimed his 3rd with Thisara Perera . Sangakkara was the only one who was looking seriously dangerous until Nate McCullum had him caught on 68. The final two wickets fell quickly and the first innings was over well before the lunch break. McClenaghan was the pick of the bowlers with an unrelenting 4-43, and gained team honours leaving the field first to applause from his team mates. He has also equalled Wayne Parnell’s record of 22 wickets in his first 8 ODI outings.
The usual formula however, is that the bowlers do a great job, and then the batsmen struggle to back it up with the numbers.
A lot of Kiwis watching would have been expecting that formula to play out last night. Especially once Ronchi departed early on in the innings. Realistically, NZ should have cruised to victory. They had bowled Sri Lanka out for 138 in the 38th over. The lowest score to date in 8 ODIs played at Cardiff.
Surely with only 139 to win NZ should have romped home, right? Oh no. The second innings was as captivating as the first. It was probably more dramatic and with more theatrics too. The appealing was fervent and voiciferous, and happened with increasing regularity. Both teams had used up their referrals early on. By the match conclusion, Dilshan and Jayawardene had been reprimanded for excessive appealing. The pair pleaded guilty to a Level 1 breach, and were fined 50% of their match fee.
The Sri Lankans threw everything they had at New Zealand but the bowlers just didn’t have enough runs to bowl to. They came very close indeed, but a great display of backyard cricket from the brothers McCullum put on 35 for the 7th wicket partnership. But the sheer obstinate determination of the tail end sealed the deal for NZ, and they eventually won with Dilshan's final ball being a wide.
The BlackCaps survived a Lasith Malinga onslaught to win the match . He was a ferocious competitor and was hurling thunderbolts. That, in itself was a small victory for New Zealand. Some of the batsmen learned more about how to handle those thunderbolts. Others, apparently, did not.
- NZ had some good and some difficult time at the crease. Malinga is as tough a bowler as they will face in this tournament and they got some good practice in there. There was plenty of practice against deceptive spin with Herath as well.
- Dan Vettori is back. He was limping like an old man, but his captain says he is ‘no spring chicken’, and he thought Vettori was moving pretty well for himself.
- The New Zealand bowling unit goes from strength to strength. They have plenty of fire power and have already proven themselves against two of the world’s toughest teams.
- The fielding is still looking very sharp. NZ pride themselves on their fielding and do a great job restricting and containing sides.
- Australia is next up for New Zealand. Whenever these two countries face off in any sport, there is extra pride on the line, and anything can happen.