Seamers set up comprehensive win for Sri Lanka
Nuwan Kulasekara found the perfect lines and lengths for the slow and low track that the USA has dished out, and ripped the heart out of New Zealand's batting with three wickets in his first over. Although Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum, the only New Zealanders to reach double figures, avoided the ignominy of the lowest total in Twenty20 internationals, 81 was never going to test Sri Lanka even on this pitch.
The win was set up by Kulasekara's first two overs, three wickets in the first and no runs in the second. He made the necessary adjustments from the first match: everything was stump to stump, slightly short of a length, and offcutters were bowled aplenty. That the innings started with Kumar Sangakkara standing up to the stumps, with no slip in sight, said a lot about the pitch. It didn't help New Zealand that their top-order batsmen were looking to play around their front pad, and the bowlers were hardly missing. There was no bounce in the pitch to take anything over the stumps either.
Aaron Redmond and Rob Nicol both fell to ones that Kulasekara got to jag in sharply. Brendon McCullum got a beauty in between those dismissals, this one holding its line. Ross Taylor, in the next over, played across the line to Angelo Mathews and paid the price. Gareth Hopkins, in to replace the injured Martin Guptill, went for an ill-advised single, and many dubious records were in sight.
Crisis man Vettori, though, found support from the older McCullum, and the two batted sensibly to add 45 for the sixth wicket. Neither of them looked to play across the line, both waited for the loose deliveries, which were rare. One of them was a full delivery from Mathews in the seventh over, which McCullum punched down the ground for the first boundary of the innings. Vettori hit two more boundaries, both cleverly played reverse-sweeps against Sanath Jayasuriya.
The partnership came to an end when Vettori swept at Ajantha Mendis, and the fielding side and the umpire took the noise emanating for an edge. Vettori, though, demonstrated the exact spot on the pitch his bat had hit, which created the incriminating sound.
When McCullum square-cut Thissara Perera through the fingers of Tillakaratne Dilshan in the 16th over, the only other boundary of the piece, the score moved to 76, two more than the lowest total by a major team. Even though McCullum kept New Zealand fighting, the lower order found full and straight bowling from Lasith Malinga too much, securing New Zealand's smallest total in the format.
In the chase, Sri Lanka were hardly under any pressure, especially after Mahela Jayawardene got them going with a 12-ball 17. During his stay in the middle, batting looked at its easiest on this pitch not conducive to attractive cricket. Perera was sent in at the first drop, and he did his job by hitting two fours and a six in his 25 even as Dilshan struggled for timing. Those two cameos were enough, though, to set the chase up, and Dilshan saw them through.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo