(Reuters) – New Zealand snatched a dramatic one-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in their opening Champions Trophy Group A match in Cardiff yesterday after Lasith Malinga had threatened to turn the match on its head.
Malinga captured four for 34 with a potent cocktail of slinging yorkers, short-pitched fliers and wickedly deceptive slower balls after New Zealand had set off in pursuit of a modest victory target of 139.
New Zealand still needed five to win with their last pair at the wicket when Malinga began his 10th and final over to Tim Southee.
After an opening wide, Southee somehow negotiated the remaining six balls. Number 11 Mitchell McClenaghan and Southee both took a single off Tillakaratne Dilshan’s next over and the match was won when the batsmen ran two on a ball which was called wide.
After Angelo Mathews had won the toss and elected to bat, Sri Lanka managed only 138 all out from 37.5 overs against some wonderfully disciplined bowling and aggressive fielding shrewdly marshalled by captain Brendon McCullum.
McCullum set the tone when he flew high to his left to make a two-handed catch off the first ball of the match from Kyle Mills which caught the edge of Kusal Perera’s bat.
Former captain Kumar Sangakkara scored 68 from 87 balls but only two other batsmen reached double figures.
Mitchell McClenaghan, who bowled so impressively in New Zealand’s 2-1 one-day series win over England before the tournament began, was again the pick of the bowlers with four for 43 from 8.5 overs.
Bowling left arm over the wicket at a brisk pace, McClenaghan clean bowled Dilshan for 20 and Mathews for nine.
Daniel Vettori, who has not played international 50 overs cricket since the 2011 World Cup because of a succession of injuries, bowled the eighth over of the innings and was immediately successful.
In a perfect demonstration of the left-arm spinner’s art, Vettori beat Mahela Jayawardene outside the off stump with a delivery which gripped, bounced and turned sharply away from the right-hander. The next ball, slower, flatter and straight, hit Jayawardene on the back pad right in front of the stumps.
Four wickets fell in the first powerplay for only 38 runs and McCullum kept the pressure on the batsmen by keeping men in the circle to stop the singles.
Sangakkara, watching helplessly at the other end as the wickets continued to tumble, smacked three fours in a row, reaching his half-century from 70 balls.
He was eventually the eighth man out and New Zealand quickly wrapped up the innings for a total which looked hopelessly inadequate.
Because the Sri Lankan innings had finished so early, New Zealand had to face six overs before the lunch interval, time enough for Sri Lanka to pick up the wicket of Luke Ronchi (7) who has not been a success as an opening batsman.
The match swung dramatically towards Sri Lanka, who had not lost to New Zealand in one-day cricket since September 2009, after the interval.
Kane Williamson (16) was lbw, ducking into a slow full toss from Malinga, and then wasted New Zealand’s only review for a decision which was soon confirmed by the third umpire.
The folly of Williamson’s review, which he first discussed with his partner Martin Guptill, was exposed when Vettori (5) was unable to ask for a review when he was given out lbw to Malinga to a ball which had first hit his bat.
Ross Taylor was lbw to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath without scoring and New Zealand’s form batsman Guptill, who had looked in prime form with four boundaries in his 25, was brilliantly caught at slip by Jayawardene leaping high to grab an edge off Shaminda Eranga.
James Franklin (6) was lbw pushing forward to Dilshan before McCullum (18) and his brother Nathan added 35 from 60 balls in a vital partnership. Nathan McCullum’s 32 was the top score of the innings and coupled with his two for 23 with the ball earned him the man-of-the-match award.
“I am happy, though I was incredibly nervous at one stage,” Brendon McCullum told Sky Sports.
“Sri Lanka are always a dangerous side and we panicked a bit in the middle. It was very important to scrap through, we have enough experience to deal with situations like this, although it did get tough towards the end.
“But I thought we played well for the majority of the game. Our bowlers were the reason that we won the game today.”