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14 February 201514:40 By Anand Vasu, Christchurch

All-round New Zealand pockets 98-run win

Anderson builds on McCullum’s start to set Sri Lanka target of 332 before bowlers combine to ensure victory in Christchurch

All-round New Zealand pockets 98-run win - Cricket News

New Zealand celebrates a 98-run win against Sri Lanka in the opener of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

A cold, grey morning underpinned by a blustery southerly and a fine drizzle gave way to a summery bright afternoon in Christchurch as the home team rang in the ICC World Cup 2015 with an all-round performance against Sri Lanka on Saturday (February 14). If the Hagley Oval provided the perfect location, New Zealand played inch-perfect cricket to reaffirm its position as a favourite to win this tournament.

That New Zealand won by 98 runs – its first success in five World Cup attempts against Sri Lanka – was not the point, nor was its collection of two points that set the team on its way to a spot in the knockouts. Rather, this was an exercise in ticking boxes, and New Zealand did not miss a single one.

Angelo Mathews won the toss, and with the possibility of rain disruptions in the air, chose to chase. From there on, however, it was New Zealand who controlled the game.

Aided by some wayward bowling – Nuwan Kulasekara offered too much width and Lasith Malinga bowled more full tosses than good balls – Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill set the pace. McCullum, who cracked the first ball he faced over cover, stepped up the heat in the eighth over of the innings, Malinga’s fourth. McCullum cut loose, swatting, flicking, driving and dabbing his way to a sequence of 446.44. The six was the best of the lot, a slower ball picked up so early that McCullum could set himself up like a golfer teeing off, the ball smacking into the sight screen.

The century of the opening partnership came in 13.2 overs. Only 11 runs later, though, Sri Lanka would have its first success as McCullum was tempted down the track to launch Rangana Herath over long off. The hit was clean, but the ropes long and Jeevan Mendis positioned himself perfectly to take the catch. McCullum’s 65 had come off only 49 balls and powered New Zealand’s start.

Guptill, one run from a half-century, was opened up by the lively Suranga Lakmal, the outside edge being well pouched by a diving Kumar Sangakkara. With two set batsmen falling in quick succession, New Zealand suffered a minor wobble and this allowed Sri Lanka’s bowlers to sneak in a few quiet overs, getting some control back.

But, despite Grant Elliott and Ross Taylor not quite getting going, there was enough cushion from the top order and firepower at the back end to ensure that there were no dramas.

Corey Anderson, who can appear less than confident against spin first up, was his muscular self once the powerplay gave way to the death overs. Anderson was particularly impressive, hitting back over the bowler’s head, and brought up his half-century with one such hit into the sight screen, off only 36 balls.

Anderson kept up the aggression, hitting his way to 75 from 46 balls, and was only dismissed off the last ball of the innings, by which time he had pushed his team to 331 for 6.

A true pitch and a fast outfield meant that the result was far from a foregone conclusion at the break. But, Sri Lanka would have known that at least two of its top guns would have to fire if the target was to be chased down. Tillakaratne Dilshan, distinctly rusty, was late on several wild pulls. Fortunately for Sri Lanka, Lahiru Thirimanne found it easy to score fluently, whether driving full deliveries, tucking the ball off his hips or pulling out the ramp shot when the short ball climbed enough.

After a conservative start, Dilshan fell softly, deceived in the air by Daniel Vettori, offering the simplest of return catches. Thirimanne, who comfortably scored at better than a run-a-ball, fell on 65, missing a peach of a yorker from Trent Boult. From there on, the wheels quickly came off. Mahela Jayawardena feathered a nick off Vettori for a duck and Sangakkara got into an awkward position against Boult to be nailed in front of the stumps.

At 129 for 4, the chase was dead in the water, and even with some batting to follow, the odds were stacked against Sri Lanka.

The pacy Adam Milne accounted for Dimuth Karunaratne and Mendis in the 32nd over, and, after that, all that was left was for Mathews to delay the inevitable. Some clean hitting ensured that the margin of defeat was whittled down to 98, as Mathews helped himself to 46 even as Sri Lanka limped to 232 all out.

To see the full scorecard of the match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, please click here.

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