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December 22, 2006
Sanath Jayasuriya enjoyed a field day at Wellington's Westpac Stadium, picking up three key wickets as Sri Lanka derailed New Zealand's batting onslaught, and then playing a blitzkrieg of an innings to propel his side to an 18-run Duckworth-Lewis victory. Rain forced everyone off the field with one delivery left in the sixth over of Sri Lanka's chase of 163, just as Jayasuriya slammed Andre Adams for 18 in four balls. With no respite in sight, Sri Lanka were declared winners based on their excellent run rate, despite being 101 runs adrift of their target.
Jayasuriya set off in manic fashion, slamming 51 from 23 deliveries. By the time Shane Bond removed Upul Tharanga for six, Jayasuriya had raced away to 27 from 15 deliveries with a brutal attack on Bond and James Franklin. Adams, in his first over in New Zealand colours since October 2005, was welcomed with the following greeting: four over backward point, four through square leg, six over wide long-on, and four more through extra cover. It was just as well that rain intervened, from Adams's perspective.
Led by their spinners, Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka clawed their way back into the first of the two Twenty20s to restrict New Zealand to 162. After taking a solid hammering from Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum - 80 runs were added in just over seven overs - Murali and Jayasuriya turned the game on its head with some controlled bowling and waited for the hosts to hit the self-destruct button.
Dressed in 1992 World Cup grey, both openers set the tone of proceedings with scorching shots, and some thick outside edges, as 29 runs came off the first two overs. In the first over, Chaminda Vaas was slammed hard over extra cover for six by McCullum, and in the second Fleming picked up three fours - one sweetly creamed through covers, two edged through the vacant slip region - to make it 17 from the over. Dilhara Fernando, playing his first game on tour, was taken for 16 from his opening over, with McCullum rounding it off with a pulled six over deep backward square leg.
Maharoof came back well to bowl Fleming with a well-disguised slower ball, and Muralitharan, though smoked for two huge sixes in his first three deliveries, got McCullum to mistime a slog-sweep out to deep midwicket. From here on, it was Sri Lanka's turn to dictate terms.
While Murali plied away with a great length from one end, Jayasuriya kept it simple yet clever; there was no room offered, he controlled his spin, and kept it flat. Franklin, sent in as pinch-hitter, played some good shots before Jayasuriya trapped him leg before; a great catch at midwicket - Chamara Silva timed his jump to perfection and took the catch on the second attempt - took care of James Marshall; and Nathan Astle was bowled neck and crop by a straight delivery. It was a pretty good effort considering there was rain in the air and that the ball must have been pretty slippery when he bowled.
The run rate dropped as the spinners continued with a controlled length, and even Silva, called on for just one over, gave away just four runs and removed the debutant wicketkeeper Peter McGlashan.
Where Fleming and McCullum had blazed 80 in no time, the remaining batsmen could only muster 82 in double the overs. Sri Lanka tasted success in their Twenty20 debut, against England at Southampton this summer, defending 163, and today, in pursuit of the identical target, they came up trumps - with a little help from the weather gods.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?