An ear-shattering scream echoed around the Providence National Stadium when man-of-the-match, Nathan McCullum hoisted a Lasith Malinga delivery over long off for the maximum to give New Zealand victory in the opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 Tournament yesterday.
The Black Caps successfully chased down the target of 135 set by Sri Lanka with two wickets in hand and just one ball to spare.
Jesse Ryder steered New Zealand beautifully at the top of the innings with 42 although he lost opening partner Brendon McCullum two balls into the innings caught by Malinga off Angelo Matthews.
Ryder was explosive at the crease, blasting three fours and two sixes from 27 balls.
He and number-three batsman, Martin Guptil, kept New Zealand within sight of the required run-rate which was just above seven runs an over.
In the ninth over, Ryder struck a delivery from Muttiah Muralitharan for a straight six but was comprehensively bowled off the very next ball. Guptil fell in the very next over to Sanath Jayasuriya for 19 with the score on 66.
But the experienced pair of Scott Styris and Ross Taylor, added 20 runs before Muralitharan struck again in the 16th over.
Sri Lanka had now clamped down on the scoring rate with tough customers Jayasuriya and Muralitharan holding down both ends.
New Zealand then suffered a critical blow when Styris was run out for 17 in the 17th over with 40 runs needed for victory.
Jacob Oram’s introduction was crucial for the Black Caps as he blasted consecutive sixes to tighten the equation and bring his team back into the game.
Sri Lanka had two overs to defend 20 runs with Chanaka Welegedera given the ball to bowl the penultimate over.
He removed Oram and Gareth Hopkins in the space of two balls and the New Zealanders were again under immense pressure.
Nathan McCullum picked up a boundary off the first ball he faced to take the deficit to 14 before a couple of runs off the last two balls meant that they needed 10 runs for victory with one over remaining.
Skipper Daniel Vettori was dismissed via the run out route looking for a suicidal second run on the fourth ball of final over bowled by Malinga. With four runs to get from two balls and McCullum on strike, Malinga got one wrong and was slapped over the long off boundary for the game winner.
Earlier, Sri Lanka owed their eventual total to a sterling knock of 81 from Mahela Jayawardene at the top of the innings.
Jayawardene surpassed his previous high score of 78.
The 32-year-old right-handed batsman faced 51 balls and hit eight fours and two sixes. He reached the half century mark off 33 balls but was then dropped on 55 by Hopkins off of a Shane Bond delivery.
Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkarra were removed cheaply but Dinesh Chandimal and Jayawardene added 59 runs before Chandimal fell for a well-constructed 29 off 23 balls.
Chamara Kapugedara was the only other Sri Lankan batsman to reach double figures. He made 11 before he was caught by Nathan McCullum off fast bowler Shane Bond.
Mc Cullum also took catches to dismiss Jaywardene and Angelo Matthews off deliveries from Timothy Southee and Bond respectively.