A win in the nick of time for desperate Kiwis
New Zealand has spent much of the summer trying to get the formula right in its one-day game and offered a hint in beating Sri Lanka by 13 runs in Christchurch today that when everything falls into place it is not far away from being a much more competitive side.
The game was a far better representation of the skills in the New Zealand side but which have been laying low for much of the summer.
But a total of 282/6 was always going to be competitive on what was the best pitch of the both the Zimbabwe and Sri Lankan series.
Sri Lanka made a bold effort to get the runs but once losing Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva for three and five respectively, the job got that much harder for them.
New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said there was a feeling of relief in the side.
"We hung in there at the difficult times. There have been areas in games when we have been playing really poorly for five or 10 overs.
"But today we maintained pressure and while 30s and 40s are not always good things when everyone chips in it all helps," he said.
Fleming hung a lot of praise on Jacob Oram, who hit his maiden ODI half century, ending on 59 off 57 balls including three fours and four sixes.
"Jacob did his job perfectly and he then changed his game when he lost Adam [Parore]. We have done a lot of work trying to push our batting to where we want it to be and Jacob gave a sign of where we want to go," he said.
Oram fills a floating role in the side with the special intent of going after the spinners.
While the victory was a relief for the side Fleming, who scored another timely 40 to go with the 67 scored in the previous game, said the side haven't even scratched the surface of turning the season around.
"But we've got to start somewhere. It is important to regain the respect of the public," he said.
New Zealand had the benefit of several good partnerships in their innings - 67 for the second wicket, 57 for the fourth, 47 for the fifth and 85 for the seventh.
Parore scored 49 (83balls), Fleming 40 (47), Jacob Oram 59 (57), Chris Harris 52 not out(43) and Lou Vincent 31 not out (26).
A seventh-wicket record for games between the two countries of 85 was set by Vincent and Harris. They beat New Zealand's record of 40 set in 1996/97 and 52 set by Guy de Alwis and Romesh Ratnayeke in Australia in 1986/87. In the last 10 overs the pair added 81 runs.
New Zealand then did themselves a huge favour by getting Sanath Jayasuriya out in the fourth over for three, with Aravinda de Silva two overs later. Wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara was a bonus as the side was in unfamiliar territory at 21/3.
Marvan Atapattu dug in however and found a fine ally in Mahela Jayawardene. They added 99 runs in a splendid fourth wicket partnership off 105 balls before Jayawardene charged Harris, missed and was bowled.
Russel Arnold joined Atapattu but with 30 runs together Atapattu took on Oram's arm when attempting a second run and was well beaten by the throw from third man to be out for 76 from 87 balls in the 31st over.
That proved a decisive, if not the decisive, blow for the side. Arnold always offered hope to the Sri Lankans but the loss of Dharmasena for 30 and Arnold's own departure for 51 in the 48th over meant it was going to take some more sensational hitting from Nuwan Zoysa for Sri Lanka to deny New Zealand.
Zoysa tried but was caught on the long on boundary for 32 off 19 balls.
Then Craig McMillan, the villain of the piece in New Zealand's loss to Zimbabwe in Auckland, tidied up the tail on this occasion taking three wickets in his last six balls to finish with three for 44.