New Zealand coasts to six-wicket win with 23 balls in hand despite chasing Sri Lanka’s formidable 356/8
Though Sri Lanka beat Scotland by nine wickets in the second fixture of the two-match series in Beckenham last week, the defeat in the opening game – courtesy Kyle Coetzer and Matthew Cross’s centuries – is what made headlines before Angelo Mathews and Co landed in England for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
Sri Lanka subsequently went down in a thrilling last-over finish in its first warm-up game against Australia. On Tuesday (May 30) then, with four days to go for its first Group A match against South Africa, it rode on a clinical batting effort to post a big 356 for 8 against New Zealand at Edgbaston, but still ended up finishing on the losing side.
Chasing a daunting 357-run target, New Zealand put up a terrific performance to go over the line in 46.1 overs and snatch a six-wicket win. Martin Guptill led the way with a brisk century, with help from Kane Williamson, the captain, and Corey Anderson, who took charge in the latter half of the pursuit.
Sent in to bat in overcast conditions, Sri Lanka started on a solid note, with Upul Tharanga and Niroshan Dickwella putting up a 65-run stand off 49 balls for the opening wicket. Dickwella hit two sixes before perishing for 25, but from there on, Tharanga and Kusal Mendis took over, scripting a second-wicket stand of 98 in 94 deliveries.
They quickly took Sri Lanka past the 150-run mark, but a mix up helped New Zealand effect a breakthrough with Trent Boult running Mendis out for 57 in the 24th over.
Dinesh Chandimal then joined Tharanga with the scoreboard reading 163 for 2, and the duo kept up the good work to take the total past 200. Tharanga reached his century, and finished with 110 off 104 balls, his knock studded with 13 boundaries and three sixes, before Mitchell McClenaghan had his number.
New Zealand tried as many as nine bowlers, and even though Boult and Tim Southee picked up two wickets each, it couldn't prevent the Sri Lankan middle and lower order from racking up the runs in the last few overs.
Chandimal scored 55 off 46 balls, with Kusal Perera (38 in 28) and Seekkuge Prasanna (23 in 23) lending enough support to help Sri Lanka put New Zealand under pressure.
New Zealand, shot out cheaply by India at The Oval in its first warm-up game, got the chase off to a good start, with the openers showing much more restraint than they did against India. Guptill and Tom Latham strung together an opening stand of 78 off 80 balls, attacking the pacers to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Latham fell for 44 off 49 balls, hitting five boundaries and a six, after being trapped in front by Prasanna's leg-spin in the 14th over.
Latham's exit got Guptill and Williamson together, and the two switched gears to put New Zealand ahead despite the intimidating required run-rate. Guptill finally retired with a fiery 76-ball 116, hitting ten fours and five sixes, and Williamson struck 88 off 60 balls with seven fours and four sixes before retiring as well to allow the remaining batsmen to get some game time under their belts.
By the time Williamson walked back to the dressing room, the scoreboard read 263 for 3 in 32 overs. But the Sri Lankan bowlers managed to stifle the new batsmen, giving away just 37 runs and picking up the wicket of Ross Taylor in the next eight overs. With 60 needed at a run-a-ball from there, the result could have gone either way, but Anderson (50 not out in 36 balls) and Neil Broom (37 not out in 38 balls) struck some some lusty blows to bring the equation down in favour of New Zealand and then get them home.
New Zealand will now feel confident going into its first match of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, against Australia at the same venue on Friday morning, while Sri Lanka must pick up the pieces quickly before facing South Africa.