Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 2nd ODI, Pallekele November 4, 2012

New Zealand blueprint cheated by rain

New Zealand have been frustrated by the rain since they arrived in Sri Lanka, but having lost the second ODI via Duckworth-Lewis, they will now feel somewhat cheated by it

New Zealand have been frustrated by the rain since they arrived in Sri Lanka, but having lost the second ODI to Sri Lanka by 14 runs via Duckworth-Lewis, they will now feel somewhat cheated by it.

Sri Lanka were not struggling by any means - in fact for most of their innings, they were cruising - but the pitch had begun to slow down markedly, and New Zealand were two wickets away from exposing a middle order that has at times proven brittle.

They will feel particularly aggrieved by the weather because they had batted so well, and in doing so, had charted out a blueprint for success, not only to break out of their present rut, but also for an ODI future which allows only four men in the deep at any point.

The visitors' batting has become almost synonymous with collapse in recent times, but their approach in Pallekele was untouched by the impetuosity that has often been their downfall.

Rob Nicol began with uncharacteristic caution, resisting the urge to counter-attack during a fearsome Lasith Malinga opening spell, and opting instead to weather it out behind a series of defensive prods - most of which were unsuccessful in their ambitions of making contact with the ball. Still, despite edging past slip on four and almost being run out soon after, Nicol parried panic with patience, and was content to concede the early exchanges to the fast men.

BJ Watling batted at No. 3 as a stop-gap for Brendon McCullum, who sat out with back stiffness, and proceeded with as much caution as Nicol, unflustered by a run rate that was well below three at his arrival. Sri Lanka's bowlers were not darting the ball about as viciously as they had done in the Twenty20 on Tuesday, but New Zealand were not tempted to take them on. In the first 15 overs of their partnership, Nicol and Watling hit only five fours between them, defended well and often, and made most of their runs in risk-free singles. Their 83-run stand for the second wicket provided the middle order with the kind of platform they have not often been afforded.

When Ross Taylor arrived at the crease, the top order had blunted the worst of the movement, and he was clear to capitalise on their defence with a belligerent innings that exploited the stricter rules on field placings. Mahela Jayawardene used his extra man in the circle as a catcher for much of the innings, and was rewarded with the wicket of Watling who was caught at short midwicket, but he rarely placed more than one deep fielder square on either side, opting instead to give his bowlers cover at third man and down the ground. This meant Taylor could target the square boundaries with little fear. Sixty of his 72 runs came square of the wicket, including all but one of seven fours, and both sixes.

With the two new balls ensuring swing bowlers remain a threat for longer in the innings, and fewer fielders outside the circle during the middle overs, New Zealand have seemingly deduced that the new laws have tilted the game towards top order conservatism, particularly on a seaming pitch. If strokemakers can remain at the crease until the new balls have lost their venom, slow starts can quickly become rapid progress towards large totals.

"250 was above par," New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said afterwards. "It is the highest score New Zealand have got against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, and I think a par score would have been 230 or 240. BJ Watling and Rob Nicol played really nicely for us after losing a wicket early, and with the ball swinging for about 20 to 23 overs, they hung in there really well and set the game up for us."

Sri Lanka's innings was more evenly paced, as they stayed around 5 runs an over throughout, perhaps faced with less testing new-ball bowling - though they did also lose more wickets. With Jayawardene batting beautifully at 42 from 46 balls, and a revised target meaning only 96 were needed from 20.1 overs, the hosts deserved a victory more than New Zealand did when the rains came, but the result was far from a certain had match had been allowed to continue.

"Sri Lanka are pretty top heavy. We got rid of two out of three of their big guns in the first 20 overs so we were pretty confident we were going to have a good crack at it," Hesson said.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2012, 15:45 GMT

    Charih111 read my comment carefully dude! I mentioned Kusal Janith ; He got the reputation as a hard hitter and a good wicket keeper ; but with his hard hitting abilities he is usually forced to bat down the order and yet shown ability to play himself in during pressure.We do not need flat track bullies in our squad : what we need is unorthodox people that would not fail under the pressure.

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2012, 15:25 GMT

    Sri Lanka were cruising easily...yes no one can say who would have won. but when it rained obviously SL had the upper hand

  • Conrad on November 5, 2012, 6:51 GMT

    Watch this space.... Boult was the quickest on display, nz are slowly getting things sorted with a young new squad. 250 without McCullum, Oram and Ryder...wasn't a terrible effort, although maybe 20 short of being really competitive. Watling looked a good ODI prospect too.

  • Manesh on November 5, 2012, 6:38 GMT

    100% luck! otherwise SL would have to face the defeat.

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2012, 5:28 GMT

    Not sure if Mike Hesson is the right man for the Job, I like the fact that he likes to experiment but he seems to think slow and steady wins the race but hasn't noticed that we seem to be loosing everything and still have extra wickets to spare???? why would you think 250 is a good score when you know rain is coming and the team batting second can cruse???? if you convert that to a 20 20 match we basically gave them a target of 100 assuming we didnt bowl them all over and lets face it if hes trying to imply he expected our attact to knock them over hes dreaming. All im seeing from this guy is that he likes to wast Power Plays at the start. he likes to give guys that play like its a test match the power play overs then mount a huge amount on his hitters in the middle order and is wondering why they havent been preforming consistantly ???? SERIOUSLY !!!!! it seems like theres talent there at the moment but the game plan is ensuring a %15 percent sucess rate.

  • narbavi on November 5, 2012, 5:26 GMT

    New zealand have been robbed, clearly they would have won from that postion!!

  • suranga on November 5, 2012, 5:16 GMT

    @shashika guruge, is chandimal failer? Then what about lahiru thirimanne? What did him specialy than chandimal? If you campered sangakkaras early batting recodes with chandimals batting recods you can understand how wrong you in this matter. If chandimal is failer then where from he got more than 800 runs in this year for his bating recodes. If we throw him out of squad then who going to be our next wekt keeper after sanga? Any other option?

  • thilana on November 5, 2012, 4:30 GMT

    "New Zealand blueprint cheated by rain" what is this subject Andrew Fernando?

    to be honest with you, this tells something else..

    please make sure to use proper headings and if you think, there was a cheat then please fill a case about "Rain" in ICC's The Anti-Corruption and Security Unit.

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2012, 4:21 GMT

    "Sri Lanka are pretty top heavy" true fact! Middle order need some kind of a rotation to make them more consistent.Ideal SSri Lankan line up have to be 1.Tharanga/thirimanne 2.Dilshan 3.Sanga 4.Kapugedara 5.Mahela 6.Mathews 7.Jeevan 8.Thisara 9.Kulasekara 10.Malinga 11.Herath : (Squad ; Akila , Shaminda Eranga , Sachitra senannayake ) Chandimal had enough! He fail under the pressure all the time Kusal Janith will be a good option

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2012, 3:16 GMT

    Andrew, your drawing an extremely long bow to suggest Sri Lanka deserved victory because Jayawardene had compiled a beautiful 42.....

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