Boult back at optimum, says Mascarenhas
Trent Boult's bowling is once again "pretty special", with the bowler having recovered from the back complaints that plagued him during the Australia tour, New Zealand bowling coach Dimitri Mascarenhas has said. Boult had been rested for much of the ODI series against Sri Lanka, but took 3 for 43 in the fifth one-dayer, then 3 for 21 in the first T20, in his home-province ground of Mount Maunganui. Boult's performance in Thursday earned him a Man-of-the-Match award.
There had been concerns about Boult's form even during the Tests against Sri Lanka, in which he appeared significantly diminished since New Zealand's last home summer. Having recently been one of the fittest bowlers in the pace battery, Boult's speeds had regularly begun to dip into the mid-120kph range.
Mascarenhas believes Boult is now back to near his best, following that brief break from the side. "Trent had a tough time in Australia and since then - he's a world class bowler and he knows what he needs to do to get back to his best, and he has done that," he said. "He has overcome his injury, he has worked really hard and he's reaping some really good rewards now, which is great to see."
Boult had delivered a vital 17th over on Thursday, with Sri Lanka threatening to run down New Zealand's 182 for 4. He conceded only three runs in that over, and also claimed the scalp of Milinda Siriwardana, who had led Sri Lanka's surge. Mitchell McClenaghan also bowled a six-run penultimate over, and Grant Elliott defended 13 runs from the final over, to complete a three-run win.
"It looked as though it could be getting away from us right at the end," Mascarenhas said. "They only needed 35 off 24 balls. In T20 standards that's pretty easy, with the size of the boundaries and the size of the bats. But Mitchell McClenaghan and Trent Boult at the end were brilliant in their last couple of overs. And for Grant Elliott to finish off like he did was good."
New Zealand had appeared to be headed for a comfortable victory when they had Sri Lanka 42 for 4, before Siriwardana, with help from Danushka Gunathilaka and Thisara Perera, revived the chase. Mascarenhas suggested New Zealand should be prepared for more such comebacks.
"As we saw with the Sri Lankans, they are going to come hard from start to finish and I think that is going to be the theme moving forward going into the World T20," he said. "All the teams bat deep so we have to be aware that if you have a team five down they are not just going to roll over and die. We are going to have to fight really hard."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando