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September 8, 2009
Andy Moles, New Zealand's coach, has called his side "a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team" after they let Sri Lanka off the hook, allowing the home side to recover from 69 for 5 to 216. They were to reach an even lower ebb 36.1 overs later when they were bowled out for 119.
Batting under lights at the R Premadasa Stadium is usually a disadvantage, but it seemed as if the New Zealand batsmen had never seen a white ball swing and seam before. After a commendable, confidence-boosting Twenty20 whitewash, New Zealand fell prey to the trap of trying to go after the bowling too hard and finishing a gettable target quickly. In the two Twenty20s when they were able to judge the pace and clear the infield, here they looked clueless.
"When we play well we're really good but when we play poorly, like we did today, we want to forget such performances," Moles said. "In all of our cricket we've got to be consistent."
A century stand between Thilan Samaraweera - who hit his maiden one-day hundred - and Angelo Mathews was responsible for Sri Lanka's ultimately winning total. After wrecking the top order New Zealand paid the price for not finishing the job.
"We had a chat after the game about how we need to finish teams off, because we didn't do that today," Moles said. "Samaraweera and Mathews put on a very good partnership but the fact of the matter is that in future, especially on wickets that deteriorate and get slower and lower, if we get early breakthroughs we need to finish them off."
Still, Samaraweera and Mathews would not have expected their stand to produce such an emphatic win. A target of 217 should not have been so difficult but it was made harder for New Zealand, who depend on a couple of batsmen heavily, by some excellent fast bowling. At half-time, Moles said the team backed themselves to win, even if they'd have liked to have bowled them out for 180 or 190.
"We spoke this week about the need to keep wickets in hand when chasing or setting, but unfortunately some very good bowling and trying too score quick too early on hurt us. We got a lot of lbws up front and dug ourselves into a hole. We played quite poorly, no excuses."
Jesse Ryder's feet went nowhere as he played down the wrong line to Thilan Thushara. Martin Guptill appeared bent on proving that he could take on the bowling and was dismissed by Nuwan Kulasekara with a short delivery. Four balls later Ross Taylor was adjudged lbw. Malinga just ran through the rest like he was bowling to a bunch of club cricketers - three wickets in four balls sealed the deal. The rest, bar Grant Elliott, wilted.
"We lost two wickets in one over and three in another. When you do that, you're struggling to win any game of cricket," Moles said. "Did we play positively enough? I think we need to be more balanced in the way we approach chasing. We lost three wickets in the first five overs; that's poor."
New Zealand will have to do a lot of soul searching. They have to forget the good evenings they enjoyed in the Twenty20s last week and confront the reality that consistency is what matters in a team.
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