Match ends in a tie after both teams end on 174, but Malinga stops New Zealand batsmen six runs short in Eliminator
On a surface that appeared dry and dusty, and yet played well enough, Sri Lanka, led by Tillakaratne Dilshan, appeared to be cruising to victory when a late twist, engineered by the pressure of falling wickets and some grim New Zealand determination, led to the first Super Over of the ICC World Twenty20 2012. Lahiru Thirimanne was run out off the last ball going for the single that would have won the game, and Sri Lanka was stranded on 174 for six.
In the Super Over that followed, Sri Lanka batted first, and despite not managing to hit a single boundary, reached 13 for 1 helped along by Tim Southee bowling two wides. Lasith Malinga, who delivered Sri Lanka’s Super Over, kept the batsmen down to just 8, spearing the ball into the pads at pace with metronomic efficiency.
Having put a decent score on the board – the average score at this venue ahead of the game was 176 – New Zealand needed to back it up with a disciplined bowling performance. For reasons best known to Ross Taylor, who has made some inexplicable decisions this tournament, Nathan McCullum opened the bowling. While Mahela Jayawardena politely worked the singles, Dilshan was more direct, pulling a short ball for four before dancing down the pitch to deposit one over long-on and sending another over the bowler’s head for a one-bounce four. With 17 coming off the first over, Sri Lanka had made its intentions clear.
New Zealand reverted to pace, but Jayawardena joined the attack, staying still in the crease and attacking late. Southee disappeared over long-on in a sweet piece of timing and Kyle Mills was hit through and over extra-cover with the precision of a surgeon.
When the Power Play ended, Sri Lanka was 64 for no loss, and suddenly 175 appeared eminently gettable. Jayawardena, who had struggled for form, regained much of his timing and touch, and when he fell for a 26-ball 44, Sri Lanka had reached 80 early in the 8th over.
Kumar Sangakkara joined Dilshan out in the middle, and ensured that the fall of a wicket did not slow the tempo down. Where they had a chance to build pressure, New Zealand was guilty of bowling short, and Sangakkara wasted little time in cutting and pulling with authority. Dilshan, who brought up his 50 in the 12th over, got into a needless muddle with Sangakkara (21) after playing the ball down to mid-wicket, and even a wide throw could not save Sangakkara as Brendon McCullum gathered and broke the stumps.
Jeevan Mendis entertained briefly, but failed to get sufficiently under a full ball from James Franklin and Taylor took a good catch diving low. Wickets and pressure sent the game into a tense final over, with eight needed, and Thirimanne connected with a delicate paddle over fine-leg off the penultimate ball of the innings to tie scores. Thirimanne did not make a clean connection the next ball, and set off late for a scampered single, but seemed to be safe as Taylor failed to gather the ball cleanly. After several agonising minutes waiting for the third umpire to rule, replays showed that the ball had ricocheted onto the stumps and beaten Thirimanne’s dive.
If the decision to open the bowling with one McCullum was mystifying, the choice to leave the other out of the opening batting was equally so. Rob Nicol did his best to ensure that McCullum was not missed, but a sedate start against pace meant that New Zealand had to take a few chances against the spinners.
Akila Dananjaya, the 18-year-old debutant, was the first beneficiary as Guptill (38) holed out to long-off off his third ball in international cricket. Dananjaya, who whooped and cheered with the enthusiasm only teenagers can muster, saw the other side of the game four overs later when a full-blooded Nicol straight-drive burst through the hands to strike him on the cheek.
Anxious moments followed as the doctor and physio attended to Dananjaya, but remarkably the young man was up and ready to bowl again soon enough. Brendon McCullum gave good indication of what he was capable of, but the slog-sweep was his undoing as he picked out the fielder in the deep. Nicol (58) also fell to the sweep, but he had done his bit.
The loss of Taylor in the 18th over meant that New Zealand’s innings did not end in a flourish, and with Kane Williamson, who batted at No. 8, being run out off the last ball, the innings ended on 174 for 7. For much of the chase, it didn’t look enough, yet it so nearly was.