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The Report by Kanishkaa Balachandran
November 6, 2012
Sri Lanka 200 for 3 (Dilshan 102*, Mathews 54*) beat New Zealand 188 for 6 (Watling 96*) by seven wickets (D/L Method)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Early in the evening, BJ Watling missed his century by four runs but returned to the pavilion with a spring in his step after propelling New Zealand to a competitive total in difficult circumstances, with rain curtailing the game to 33 overs a side. Tillakaratne Dilshan not only passed three figures, but also ensured Sri Lanka passed the finish line without panic in a controlled chase.
The two innings were statistically similar - in terms of strike-rate and number of boundaries hit - but the difference lay in the way they were paced. Watling came alive after he passed fifty, while Dilshan built his innings steadily and pushed on once his partnership with Angelo Mathews had all but ensured Sri Lanka to safety.
New Zealand had scored 188, but the target was revised to 197. The chase began positively with Dilshan finding the gaps early on, but New Zealand hit back in the fifth over. After being caressed for two boundaries through the off side, Tim Southee bowled a bouncer and Upul Tharanga ducked and the ball deflected off his helmet for four. Southee exchanged words with the batsman but Tharanga barely had time to gather himself when he hooked the following ball - dug in short again - awkwardly to fine leg.
The challenge for the New Zealand bowlers was the heavy dew and their seamers did well to keep it tight and not let the likes of Kumar Sangakkara to get away. In the urge to find the boundary, Sangakkara chipped down the track to Kyle Mills and pulled straight to midwicket. It wasn't Mahela Jayawardene's night either, as his reverse sweep off Nathan McCullum found short third man, giving New Zealand an opening in the 15th over with Sri Lanka needing 124.
The boundaries had dried up for the hosts and the drought lasted eight overs before Mathews charged Southee and swatted him over mid-on. The required rate crept up to seven and beyond but Dilshan and Mathews ensured things didn't get out of hand, perhaps gaining a psychological edge watching the bowlers furiously wipe the ball trying to get rid of the dew. The fielders showed good commitment, sliding and diving with purpose but the bowlers couldn't sustain the pressure, giving away regular boundaries.
Dilshan crashed one on the up and nearly cleaned up the bowler Trent Boult, before Mathews slapped two ordinary deliveries from Mills wide of point in a three-over period that produced a vital 30 runs. It was a matter of time before Dilshan produced his trademark lap shot, sending one off Jacob Oram to fine leg. Sri Lanka took their last Powerplay block of three overs in the end, when Dilshan muscled his way towards his century, reaching the landmark with a six over deep square leg.
Sri Lanka were fortunate their innings wasn't constantly interrupted by the weather. Two lengthy rain interruptions - both exceeding 100 minutes each - couldn't have been easy for New Zealand as they looked to build after being put in to bat. After the second break, they had 19 remaining overs to get as many as they could, with the threat of rain at the back of their heads.
The stand of 56 between James Franklin and Watling gave New Zealand the push they needed. Watling had nothing to lose in attacking. His first fifty came of 70 balls - his next 46 came off just 18. It included slogs to midwicket off the spinners, powerful drives to the deep square on the off side off the seamers and three boundaries in an over off Lasith Malinga. That over - the penultimate - yielded 15, as Malinga dished out low full tosses. It was one of those nights when he couldn't land his yorkers. Nathan McCullum gave him good support at the other end with clean hits.
A century for Watling seemed a possibility but he lost strike after the third ball in the final over. New Zealand had made enough to set Sri Lanka a required rate of just under a run-a-ball, but Dilshan and Mathews settled the issue with nearly two overs to spare and give Sri Lanka an unassailable 2-0 lead.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
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