New Zealand clinch a last-ball thriller
James Franklin's calmness under pressure and Michael Mason's last-ball four clinched a nail-biting one-wicket victory against Sri Lanka in the second ODI at Queenstown. Set a modest 225-run target after a superb 89 from Kumar Sangakkara, New Zealand threatened to collapse as Muttiah Muralitharan led a mid-innings fightback. But Franklin rallied with an unbeaten 45 and Mason hit the last ball of the game for four to end 2006 in style.
Needing one run to win off the last over with one wicket in hand, Sanath Jayasuriya summoned all his ODI experience and bowled five excruciating dot balls at Mason while Franklin watched helpless from the non-striker's end. However, Mason kept his nerve and lofted the last ball back over Jayasuriya's head for four to level the series at 1-1.
When New Zealand began their innings, such a close finish seemed impossible. They were off to a flier with Brendon McCullum, revelling in his new role as an aggressive opener, and James Marshall taking the attack to the new-ball bowlers. McCullum kick-started the innings with a brace of boundaries and one imperious six over square leg forcing Mahela Jayawardene into making an early change after Lasith Malinga's first four overs leaked 29 runs.
It proved to be an inspired change too. Farveez Maharoof struck with his first legitimate delivery, winning a dubious lbw decision from Gary Baxter, the local umpire, against McCullum who was hit outside the line. The fortuitous breakthrough ended a 57-run partnership in 9.1 overs and allowed Sri Lanka to claw their way slowly but surely back into the contest.
Some poor running between the wickets led to Ross Taylor being run out by a pinpoint throw from Chamara Silva at cover and when Peter Fulton became Muralitharan's first victim of the day, trapped lbw by an off-break, New Zealand were wobbling on 91 for 3. But they cobbled together a useful partnership with Daniel Vettori and James Marshall adding 30 runs to swing the pressure back onto Jayawardene.
However, James Marshall's frenetic running between the wickets opened another window for Sri Lanka. He called for a suicidal single and Malinga pounced at mid-on, swooping athletically and throwing down the stumps off-balance. Next over, Craig McMillan, on his comeback to international cricket after one year on the sidelines, edged Muralitharan's doosra to slip.
The initiative was now swinging strongly to Sri Lanka and Jayawardene took the opportunity to play his wildcard: Malinga. Once again, the bowling change worked with Malinga conjuring a perfect yorker that sent Vettori's off stump cart-wheeling and New Zealand were reeling at 141 for 6.
The stage was perfectly set for Hamish Marshall to reward the faith placed in him by the patient New Zealand selectors, but just when he appeared to be steering his team home, having added 34 with Franklin, he clipped back a return catch to Tillakaratne Dilshan. Jayawardene quickly recalled Muralitharan for his final over and he duly delivered, pinning Andrew Adams lbw.
Sri Lanka were on the brink of a 2-0 victory with New Zealand on 194 for 8. But Franklin took over responsibility and found a determined partner in Mark Gillespie. While Franklin picked up runs in orthodox fashion, trusting his partner with the strike, Gillespie choose more novel means to keep out Malinga's toecrushers. Somehow, moving to leg and then jabbing downwards, he survived.
A total of 15 runs were needed from the final three overs and Malinga then conceded eight runs. Vaas conceded five from his next three deliveries and the match looked over. However, there was time for another twist as Gillespie, smote a low full toss straight to Maharoof at mid off. Crucially, Franklin had crossed before the catch was taken and was on strike. With two runs to defend, Vaas bowled a critical wide that ensured New Zealand could not lose. Franklin could not win it off the last ball of the penultimate over and watched as Mason patted back five dot balls before securing victory.
Earlier, New Zealand capitalised on winning the toss by early wickets and producing a far more disciplined display than in the first match at Naiper. Jayasuriya and Jayawardene both fell early, leaving Sri Lanka at 14 for 2. A mini-recovery followed with Sangakkara and Upul Tharanga adding 36 before Tharanga edged to Ross Taylor at first slip after a leaden-footed flash outside off-stump.
Sangakkara was in good form, picking up boundaries whenever the bowlers did err in their length, but run-scoring became increasingly difficult during the middle overs while Vettori bowled straight through his allotment of overs. Between the 25th and 36th over Sri Lanka were unable to score a boundary. But Sangakkara continued to hold the innings together during a workmanlike 74-run stand with Silva.
A cruel piece of luck denied Sangakkara a century and checked the momentum once again as Andre Adams deflected a firm straight drive from Silva onto the stumps. Minutes later, Silva lost control of a cover drive and skewed a catch to backward point. With two new batsmen, Dilshan and Maharoof, at the crease the run-rate dropped and this was proved decisive in the end.
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent