New Zealand aiming for series win
They are not exactly one-man bands but Daniel Vettori and Tillakaratne Dilshan are focal points when Sri Lanka and New Zealand review tactics before tomorrow's final Twenty20 cricket clash.
The duo's contrasting strengths tilted the balance of power during a fluctuating series opener at R Premadasa Stadium yesterday before Dilshan's half century was negated by another studious bowling effort from New Zealand's captain.
Unlike in the test series, Vettori had a strong supporting cast as New Zealand won a thriller by three runs after defending 141 for eight.
Jacob Oram's hattrick - the second in Twenty20 international history - personified a much-improved bowling performance in the crucial "death" overs while Ian Butler, Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor all struck decisive blows in the field and with the bat.
In fact Oram didn't know he had scored the hattrick until he got back to the team's hotel and received a congratulations email from his father.
But it was Vettori's four-over spell for just 11 runs that counterpart Kumar Sangakkara picked out of a highlights package that provides New Zealand's tour with a feel-good factor.
Sangakkara, Vettori's 300th test wicket last week, was beaten in-flight again when he chipped to short mid-wicket the over before Butler and Ryder combined to end Dilshan's torment.
Even Dilshan treated Vettori with respect in the latter stages of his whirlwind 57 from 28 balls - a knock where only eight runs did not come via boundaries or sixes.
He was content to tap two of the three deliveries he faced for singles and blocked the other, illustrating the respect Sri Lanka held for the left arm slow bowler.
Vettori, who brought himself on in the seventh over when Sri Lanka were on the charge at 64 for two, also removed debutant Gihan Rupasinghe with the last ball off a spell that emphasised his reputation as one of the shrewdest operators in a format made for batting.
After six matches this year, Vettori's economy rate of 5.20 runs per over is second only to Pakistan's Shahid Afridi (5.11). He also has nine wickets at 13.88 from six matches - another statistic to irritate Sangakkara.
"Dan's always been a very good Twenty20 bowler, he knows what he's trying to do with every batsman so we need to execute our game plan better," Sangakkara said.
Sri Lanka will attempt a more proactive approach to Vettori tomorrow and in the subsequent Tri-Series one-day internationals with India.
"We have to look at where we're going to score singles off him," he said.
Vettori said yesterday's analysis vindicated his defensive strategy in limited overs cricket.