SL seamers shred New Zealand
Sri Lanka 262 for 6 (Sangakkara 79, Jayasuriya 70, Gillespie 3-39) beat New Zealand 73 (Vaas 3-10, Malinga 3-14, Muralitharan 2-7) by 189 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sri Lanka's pace bowlers, galvanised by a supremely skilful spell of left-arm swing bowling from Chaminda Vaas, overpowered New Zealand to level the series 2-2 with one game to play. Set a challenging 263-run target, New Zealand collapsed in spectacular fashion and were bowled out for an abysmal 73 in 26.3 overs, their second lowest ODI score, to record their heaviest ever defeat.
Vaas was superb, swinging the ball through the air and cutting off the seam during an eight-over new ball burst that ripped New Zealand's top order to shreds. Unrelentingly accurate, Vaas pinned Fleming, Ross Taylor and Hamish Marshall (three) lbw with full-length deliveries that swung late, reducing New Zealand to 25 for 4 by the seventh over.
Like Sri Lanka, New Zealand had shortened their batting order for the fourth game in favour of extra bowling options and, after those initial blows, the match was effectively over. Lasith Malinga, recalled for a second spell after a solitary over with the new ball, created further mayhem in the middle order with a fiery three-wicket burst of his own before Muttiah Muralitharan finished off the game.
Sri Lanka's winning position had been forged earlier in the afternoon by Sanath Jayasuriya, who blazed an astonishing 70 from 44 balls, an innings that contained five of the sweetest sixes you are likely to see, including one monster strike that ended up in the top stand of Eden Park. Kumar Sangakkara then consolidated the innings with a composed 79 after a mini-collapse. Sri Lanka, trailing 2-1 after back-to-back defeats at Queenstown and Christchurch, changed strategy for this crucial game, reverting to six specialist batters and five frontline bowlers, a combination that worked so well for them in England. The batsmen responded well to the heightened responsibility after Mahela Jayawardene won his first toss of the series.
Jayasuriya led the way after a cautious start against a lively Shane Bond, playing with the same breathtaking freedom that he displayed at Napier. He started relatively slowly but once Sri Lanka had established a solid platform on 48 without loss after 10 overs, he decided to cut loose clubbing three back-to-back sixes off Michael Mason's sixth over. Having broken the world record for the most sixes hit in an ODI career (now 222 from 374 matches), he surged to his 61st fifty from just 32 balls. The six-hitting continued with another burst off Andre Adams who was launched over midwicket, smashed over cover and then pulled to the square leg fence in an over that yielded 17 runs.
After a steady start, Sri Lanka were flying along having scored 54 runs between the 10th and 15th over. But Mark Gillespie held his nerve amid the carnage and Mason held onto a good catch at deep fine leg off a top-edged pull from Jayasuriya. Two balls later Gillespie bowled an outswinger and induced an out-of-touch Jayawardene, to edge the ball to Fleming - back at the helm after a three match rest - who dived full length, and low, to his right and took an stunning catch. In the next over, Upul Tharanga, who had been playing a responsible second fiddle to Jayasuriya, was bowled off the pad after Gillespie nipped one back.
Sri Lanka slumped from 102 without loss to 103 for 3 in the space of 13 balls and the innings was back in the balance. Aware that their partnership was utterly crucial considering the reduced depth of the batting order, as well as the decision to rest the in-form Chamara Silva to make room for Chamara Kapugedera, Sangakkara and Marvan Atappatu took few risks early on. The partnership run rate was slow, averaging around three runs per over for much of the stand, but gradually Sangakkara picked up the momentum, finding the boundary with increasing frequency. Atapattu, though, currently looking uncomfortable in his new middle-order role, laboured throughout his innings, using up 75 deliveries for his 34 runs.
However, their 91-run stand, broken as Atapattu tried an ambitious lofted drive, carried Sri Lanka into a position where they could attack again in the final ten overs. Sangakkara pushed down hard on the accelerator some more, mixing innovative strokes with some classical shots, and then Farveez Maharoof provided some icing with two huge sixes and a four in a quick 21 from 11 balls.
Vaas needed just seven balls to claim his first scalp, the all-important Fleming, who missed an inswinger that would have hit the inside of leg-stump. But the next victim belonged to Maharoof following a shrewd bowling change in just the fourth over and an acrobatic one-handed diving catch from Sangakkara off the inside edge of Brendon McCullum's bat. With Nathan Astle not playing, and New Zealand's two most dangerous batsman back in the pavilion, Sri Lanka sensed the opportunity to drive home their advantage. Sure enough, Vaas soon exposed the technical deficiencies of Taylor and Marshall against the swinging ball. Both were set-up for their lbws beautifully, gradually pulled across the crease by his offcutter and then pinned by the inswinger.
Malinga, brimming with energy after his rest in Christchurch, was unleashed for the second time in the 12th over and he struck immediately, beating Peter Fulton for pace first ball. Adams was unfortunate to be adjudged lbw to a Malinga toecrusher - the only one of the six lbws that was a poor decision. Bond was deceived by a slower one.
Craig McMillan provided some resistance, top scoring with 29 not out, but was far from convincing, especially against Malinga who should have claimed his fourth wicket when McMillan took evasive action and the ball ballooned up to Dilhara Fernando at third man. The straightforward chance was spilled; the one blot on Sri Lanka's fielding performance.
Fleming summed up New Zealand's performance by saying: "It was rubbish, that's what it was."
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent