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September 8, 2009
A batting masterpiece and a fast-bowling barrage. It isn't often that a team can combine both of those forces in one night, but Sri Lanka had all of that, and more, going for them. Thilan Samaraweera compiled a superlative maiden one-day century and Lasith Malinga ripped New Zealand's middle order to shreds as the hosts launched the series with a thumping win, bonus point included.
When Sri Lanka were restricted to 216, it seemed a tight contest was on the cards; instead New Zealand folded for 119, sending the smattering of spectators home early. Sri Lanka's innings had been resurrected from 69 for 5 by Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews, but New Zealand never recovered after Sri Lanka's fast bowlers sliced through the order.
Within 29 balls, Jesse Ryder (0), Martin Guptill (3) and Ross Taylor (2) were left brooding in the dressing room. New Zealand's shot at victory had been squashed and any self-belief that lingered after the Tests now vanished.
And Sri Lanka weren't done. Malinga is hardly the man you want to see with the ball when your top order has been blown away, and what followed was stunning. With his first three overs, comprising deliveries on all sorts of lengths, Malinga kept the batsmen tied down. The fourth was something out of a shooting gallery. Brendon McCullum had run the risk of being arrested for loitering as he squeezed 14 from 51 balls before Malinga rattled his stumps. Two deliveries later Malinga held back his length and drew an edge off Jacob Oram's bat to Kumar Sangakkara. With his next ball, Malinga hurled down a corker that went right through debutant Nathan McCullum.
At 41 for 6 in the 19th over, this game was as good as done. The only batsmen to cross 14 were Grant Elliott, with a brave 41, and Ian Butler, whose efforts lessened the margin of defeat. Completing the rout with another yorker was Malinga, whose aggressive bowling had undoubtedly been fuelled by Samaraweera's inspirational batting.
Samaraweera, whose highest ODI score coming into this match was 38 not out, teamed up with Mathews and averted a meek surrender with a 127-run association from 134 balls. The pair combined exceptional running between the wickets with some fireworks to help Sri Lanka reach a total that looked remote when they began.
Conventional wisdom and statistics at the Premadasa suggest strongly you bat first in day-night matches, and when Sangakkara won the toss it was greeted with loud cheers as the crowd anticipated a quick start. But this was an unusual two-paced track that didn't encourage for blazing shots and Sri Lanka slipped to 22 for 3.
Tuffey's reputation as a first-over specialist preceded him on his international return, and it was a special wicket to celebrate too, as Tillakarate Dilshan chopped on. Bond dismissed Mahela Jayawardene for 0, steering a rising delivery to slip, and Sanath Jayasuriya for 7, slashing to third man. Vettori eased Bond back into this format with five tight overs (2 for 9) and Tuffey's consummate spell of 1 for 19 off six overs made for a clinical start with the ball. Tuffey and Bond bowled very straight and shackled the Sri Lankan top order, and the fielders were energetic and predatory as well.
There were only two boundaries by the half-way mark - both inside the first three overs - and a run rate of 2.72 indicated how much Sri Lanka had struggled. Almost immediately, Samaraweera and Mathews began to build some momentum, unfazed by the nature of the track and energetically hunting for scoring possibilities. A boundaryless streak, lasting 143 deliveries, was soon snapped.
Mathews played his most fluent innings in recent memory. He timed the ball well from the start, getting off the mark with a straight drive off Daniel Vettori, and then placed the ball far more deftly than he had in the Twenty20s. Between overs 33 and 38 the pair added 35, running hard between the wickets and taking runs off Butler, prompting Vettori to call back Tuffey. Samaraweera, who had reached his half-century off 78 balls, cleanly lofted and paddled boundaries to get the small crowd cheering.
In the first over of the batting Powerplay, taken after 44 overs, Samaraweera turned it on: he brought up the century stand in 114 balls with a spanking cover drive off Butler, repeated the shot a touch squarer, and paddled four more past short fine leg. Bond returned to bowl Mathews for 51, but Samaraweera achieved his watershed landmark. It was exceptional batting and got Sri Lanka to a total far beyond what New Zealand would have liked.
Vettori now has a few days to raise his players' morale. It will be difficult after such a comprehensive defeat, especially against India. New Zealand's next game - and potentially last - game is on Friday. They can, at best, hope to look forward to a new pitch.
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