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The Report by Andrew Fidel Fernando
November 10, 2013
Match abandoned Sri Lanka 288 for 9 (Dilshan 81, Sangakkara 79, Mathews 74*, Mills 3-49) v New Zealand 13 for 1 in 4.2 overs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In the first encounter of the annual tussle between Sri Lanka's cricket schedule and the elements, rain came away the winner again, ending the match after 54.2 overs of play in Hambantota. October and November are wet months for almost every region in the country, and just as New Zealand's last limited-overs series in the country was heavily affected by the weather, this one has begun in familiar fashion.
Before the heavens opened up, Sri Lanka had hit a daunting 288 for 9 thanks to an effortless 79 from Kumar Sangakkara, and Angelo Mathews' business-like 74 not out from 64. Tillakaratne Dilshan top-scored with 81, after he had lost his opening partner first ball, but his 137-run partnership with Sangakkara provided the hosts with an excellent foundation for the consummate finish that followed, as acting captain Kyle Mills marshaled a green New Zealand attack prone to indiscipline.
A searing opening spell from Lasith Malinga had already accounted for Anton Devcich by the time the rain came down, and the match was called off after a couple of hours of incessant rain, with the visitors on 13 for 1.
Sri Lanka's focus in 2013 has been an earnest, sometimes frenzied, quest for regeneration in anticipation of the senior batsmen's retirement, but neither Sangakkara's skill nor his hunger seems to have abated. Having top-scored in Sri Lanka's previous ODI series in July, Sangakkara played a series of crisp drives and concise pulls early in his innings, demonstrating he had lost none of his touch during the international hiatus. More than his swift rate of scoring - an ODI virtue that largely eluded him until this year - the most striking aspect of Sangakkara's innings was the ease with which he progressed. Having arrived to face the second ball of the innings, he seemed to be cruising in third gear throughout as he rarely dipped below a run-a-ball.
Dilshan had just returned from a finger injury, but despite being compelled into defence by his own lack of fluency, the dot balls did not incite panic in his approach, with Sangakkara ensuring the score sped along. Dilshan was not so out of touch that he could not whip bad balls through cover, nor did he shelve the scoop, which appeared as early as the seventh over, but the bludgeoned pulls and violent cuts that routinely populate a Dilshan innings were notable in their relative absence. His eventual score, though, revealed his own increasing versatility and appetite for runs. After Sangakkara, Dilshan had been the top ODI run-scorer in both this calendar year, and in Sri Lanka's last series.
Mitchell McClenaghan was among Sangakkara's early victims, as the bowler strayed either side of the wicket in his opening spell to concede four boundaries - two through square leg, and two on the off side. A hundred seemed almost inevitable when he reached his half-century off 51 balls, but the flat left-arm spin of Anton Devcich stemmed the run-flow after the field had gone back, and Sangakkara eventually chipped him to midwicket, cursing himself for getting out needlessly.
Mathews arrived when New Zealand had struck a sudden double-blow, but he quickly overcame his typically shaky start with a straight six off Nathan McCullum, before settling down to play a fine finishing innings - a responsibility he had lately begun to neglect. His arrival coincided with a more fluent period for Dilshan as well, and they both ensured the momentum from Sangakkara's innings was not wasted. Mathews struck three fours in the 36th over - the first of the batting Powerplay - even charging a McClenaghan bouncer and swatting it to the midwicket boundary for four. Although Dilshan also sent two over the keeper's head soon after, he tried one too many scoops. and gave the keeper an easy high catch.
Thirimanne and Chandimal perished cheaply, as New Zealand struck through McCullum and McClenaghan just as Sri Lanka seemed headed for 300, but Mathews found runs all around the ground, and kept the innings on track. Mills took two wickets late in the innings as Sachithra Senanayake's four-ball 14 provided a fruitful final burst for Sri Lanka.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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