Cricket's American adventure got off to an unattractive start in Florida. The slow and low pitch didn't make for an exciting match, and New Zealand grafted hard to reach 120 for 7. It proved more than enough as Sri Lanka struggled and folded for 92.
The pitch was the villain of the piece. It certainly wasn't a batting surface, and it wasn't bowler-friendly either. It was a dull and lifeless track which sucked the pace and bounce from the deliveries and made shot-making almost impossible. The ball stopped on the batmen, kept low, and was immensely hard to time. And it certainly wasn't the perfect advertisement for cricket in a foreign land.
Only two Sri Lankan batsmen managed to adapt to the conditions, but neither hung around long enough to make a difference in the chase. Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews batted with a rare fluency, but both fell as New Zealand slow bowlers, led by that king of slow strangulating offcutters, Scott Styris, called the shots. Mathews collected a four and a six with hits over midwicket to loot 16 runs from the ninth over, bowled by Nathan McCullum, to reduce the equation to 74 from 11 overs. However, things went pear-shaped for Sri Lanka from then on.
Sangakkara fell, pulling a long hop from Daniel Vettori to deep square leg, and Mathews swung an offcutter from Styris to long-on. And when Chamara Kapugedera dragged the next ball - a short and slow offcutter - to deep midwicket, Sri Lanka needed 59 from 44 balls. It was a task beyond the reach and skill level of the lower order.
New Zealand too had struggled, but Ross Taylor showed self restraint and Daniel Vettori adapted well to push them to a decent total. It didn't make for a great viewing experience, but it brought some runs.
Taylor chose to concentrate on timing the ball as best as he could; he didn't play his typical expansive on-side swipes and worked the angles for singles. Vettori, too, did his best with his sweeps and swats and ensured New Zealand used up the full 20 overs after Taylor was run out.
With the score on 75 for 4 in the 14th over, Taylor turned for a second run after pushing wide of third man, but Nuwan Kulasekara fired in a sharp throw to Sangakkara and caught him short. It was a crippling blow, but Vettori had the skill and the patience to push New Zealand over 100.