Priest had come into the game with a best of 96 not out, which she had recorded in a win against England last summer. As the hard-hitting Wellingtonian equalled that score, she also posted her 1000th career run in One-Day Internationals.
Shortly afterwards, tapping a single to mid on to bring up her hundred, the 30-year-old veteran of 59 ODIs and 53 T20 Internationals hunched down in a moment of relief, before raising her bat in jubilation.
Priest had plundered her milestone off just 113 balls, including 10 fours — and added two more celebratory boundaries before being stumped on 108 off Chamari Attapattu in the 39th over.
By then, she had soldered two substantial partnerships, launching with 84 for the first wicket with captain Suzie Bates (38), before a match-winning blitz of 131 with an aggressive yet polished Amy Satterthwaite (69 off 72). They had poured on a White Ferns record for the second wicket against Sri Lanka, just six runs short of the record for all partnerships against the side.
Priest’s century was also the highest score by any White Fern against Sri Lanka and only the second ton since Debbie Hockley’s unbeaten century in 1997.
It was quite the day for milestones, Sri Lankan bowler Inoka Ranaweera bouncing back from a caning off her early overs to take the first hat-trick by any international team against New Zealand Women as she removed Anna Peterson, Erin Bermingham and Lea Tahuhu off the final three balls of the innings. Her 4-53 off eight overs was a career best.
A tally of 283/9 would prove a challenge for the visitors, however, on a day that oscillated between spring and summer as a southerly and light rain swept across Canterbury.
Attapattu (75) anchored the Sri Lankan innings in reply, but after the initial breakthrough was made courtesy of a Katie Perkins-effected run out, the Sri Lankan opener lost partners regularly and her team petered to 187/9 in their 50.
Twenty-three-year old Leigh Kasperek attacked for a career-best haul of 4-27 off her 10 overs, including two maidens.
So it is New Zealand Women who pick up two valuable ICC Women’s Championship points from the win. The second One-Day International is at the same venue on Thursday.