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The Bulletin by Lynn McConnell
December 26, 2004
New Zealand 144 for 3 (Fleming 77*) beat Sri Lanka 141 (Dilshan 48, Jayasuriya 43, Cairns 4-33) by 7 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary
An innings of 77 off 92 balls from Stephen Fleming carried New Zealand to a comfortable seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the first one-dayer at Eden Park in Auckland. Having only 141 to defend, their fourth lowest total in one-day internationals against New Zealand, Sri Lanka found themselves well short of the required bowling firepower. New Zealand surpassed the modest target in only 34 overs.
Fleming registered his 38th half-century in ODIs but it was the manner of his innings which suggested that he was coming into his own again. Two sixes, one each off Sanath Jayasuriya and Farveez Maharoof, were superb straight shots of characteristic elegance but contained more power than usual. While he anchored the innings, the winning runs were hit by Hamish Marshall, who swept one to the boundary to finish unbeaten on 14.
New Zealand's recent hard stint in Australia stood them in good stead. In comparision, Sri Lanka appeared short of match readiness. There was solidity in New Zealand's bowling, enhanced by the return of Daryl Tuffey, while the batting was composed.
Conditions were not excessively bad when the Sri Lankans were asked to bat first on the portable pitch. It was a hard surface, with some swing and cut off the pitch. The difficulty for the Sri Lankans was that they batted for much of their innings without the benefit of the warm sun that came out during stages of New Zealand's innings.
After they were dismissed in the 42nd over, Sri Lanka bowled five overs, in which time Chaminda Vaas prised out Nathan Astle. Any hopes that they could get among the New Zealand top order were extinguished in a careful stand of 57 between Stephen Fleming and Mathew Sinclair. Sinclair had made 31 (53 balls) when he tapped back a return catch to Upul Chandana.
Fleming, who had been cautious and even looked a little out of sorts, began to find his rhythm in partnership with an aggressive Scott Styris. He greeted the introduction of Sanath Jayasuriya by going down the track to drive him for four, and then repeated the placement, but with more force, to take six runs. That followed a six blasted over long-on by Styris off Chandana. But his innings of 12 was cut short when Fleming turned down a quick single (101 for 3).
Sri Lanka earlier had little chance to unleash their strokeplay. Jayasuriya was forced into a much more restrained role after four batsmen departed. The first of them, Saman Jayantha, was trapped in front by Tuffey in the first over of the day, and Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene were also dismissed cheaply.
Jayasuriya scored 43, with one four and a six - a glorious straight drive for six off Chris Cairns. But Cairns had the final say when Jayasuriya looked to hook a bouncer and clipped the ball onto his helmet for it to rebound to Marshall at point.
Tillakaratne Dilshan performed a useful salvage job in the middle order where he added 44 runs with Chandana, but fell to a fine one-handed catch from Fleming at slip, off the bowling of Cairns, after he had scored 48 off 79 balls.
Cairns was able to put his experience to good use to ensure there was no prospect of a Sri Lankan batting revival on the day. His variations complemented the good line he slipped into right from his introduction at the bowling crease. He finished with 4 for 33 from eight overs, while Tuffey marked his return to internationals with 2 for 17 off his eight overs.
New Zealand's facile victory sent out a clear message to an under-par Sri Lankan side, who will have to improve in all departments to make a contest of the five-match series.