Kiwis fight back to beat Sri Lanka in thriller
Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum held their nerve to record a thrilling 2 wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the opening game of this years Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean.
On a slow turning wicket at the Providence Stadium in Guyana Mahela Jayawardene played a patient innings to score a valuable half century which helped Sri Lanka reach 135-6 against New Zealand.
The Kiwis struggled as well on a bowler friendly wicket but they held their never when it mattered most to win the game with 1 ball to spare.
After the loss of two earlier wickets Jayawardene and Dinesh Chandimal built a third wicket partnership of 59 to help Sri Lanka recover after Tillakeratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara were dismissed cheaply.
Having won the toss Sri Lanka decided to bat first but it was New Zealand who got off to the better start thanks to their slow bowlers who controlled the game on a slow turning wicket.
The Kiwis opened the bowling with Nathan McCullum, the off-spinner utilised the slow bounce and even slower outfield conceding just 2 runs with Dilshan struggerling to score with the pace taken off the ball.
Dilshan continued to struggle against Shane Bond in the next over, the opener had a disappointing IPL and his poor form continued when he was bowled by Jacob Oram in the 5th over having score 3 runs from 19 balls.
Skipper Sangakkara (4) soon followed after he was bowled by Scott Styris to leave Sri Lanka struggerling on 44-2 after 8.2 overs.
Despite losing two wickets Jayawardene was still at the crease, partnered by Chandimal the former Sri Lanka skipper continued his important contribution completing his third Twenty20 international century in the 13th over.
With Sri Lanka forcing their way back into the game New Zealand made an important breakthrough when Chandimal (29) was caught out on the boundary by Ross Taylor to leave Sri Lanka 103-3.
Jayawardene (81) was joined at the crease by Chamara Kapugedera but his brilliant innings was ended at the start of the 18th over by Tim Southee thanks to a well taken catch by Nathan McCullum at deep mid-wicket.
Bond picked up his first wicket of the innings when he dismissed Kapugedera (11) in the final over as Sri Lanka just lost their way a little on the way to a total of 135.
With Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya in the line up Sri Lanka would have felt confident of defending such a low total
The Kiwis run chase didn’t get of to the best start after big hitting Brendon McCullum was dismissed in the first over by Angelo Matthews who opened the innings with a maiden.
The early lose of McCullum didn’t effect the Kiwis, Jesse Ryder was joined at the crease Martin Guptill and the pair built a partnership of 62 runs which put New Zealand in complete control with the run rate hovering around 7.0 an over.
With a comfortable victory on the cards Sri Lanka hit back taking two wickets in the space of 9 balls to give themselves a chance of claiming the victory.
Muttiah Muralitharan made the first break through to remove Ryder (42) in the 8th over, having smashed Muralitharan for a huge six at the start of his spell Ryder attempted the same shot two balls later but was bowled by a slightly quicker ball.
Guptill soon followed when he was bowled by Jayasuriya to leave the Kiwis 66-3.
The Kiwis were starting to struggle as the runs started to dry up thank to some superb bowling by Muralitharan and Jayasuriya. The veteran spinners took all of the pace off the ball as the wicket offered little to the batsman.
The wickets brought Sri Lanka back into the game, and with the run rate and pressure increasing they struck again to remove Taylor (9) and Styris (17) to leave the Kiwis 96-5.
Jacob Oram came to the crease to join skipper Daniel Vettori with New Zealand needing another 40 runs from just 22 balls to claim victory.
The big hitting all rounder wasted little time smashing the second ball he faced for a huge six, he repeated the shot from the very next ball to give the Kiwis some much need momentum.
With two overs to go the Kiwis had done superbly to get back into the game but Sri Lanka struck back once again picking up the wickets of Oram (15) and Gareth Hopkins (1) to set up a tight finish with New Zealand needing another 19 runs from just 10 balls.
Despite losing two wickets in the 18th over New Zealand managed to score 10 runs from it to leave then needing 10 runs from the last 6 balls of the game.
Malinga, regarded as one of the world’s best death bowlers was given the responsibility of bowling the last over but he was unable to stop the Kiwis claiming a thrilling victory.