Mills slams tour scheduling
New Zealand acting captain Kyle Mills has slammed scheduling of his team's tour to Sri Lanka. He took particular aim at the decision to schedule play till 6pm in the deciding ODI in Dambulla, which he said lacked common sense. New Zealand needed 90 to win from eight overs, but had a belligerent pair at the crease, when the umpires ended play for bad light.
Play had originally been scheduled to end at 5:45, but had been extended 15 minutes after rains in the morning and afternoon. The sunset time was 5:49, though it is effectively slightly earlier in Dambulla, due to the hills to the town's west. Play was called off in very dim conditions at around 5:40, and the ground was in near-darkness at 5:55. Sri Lanka Cricket schedule the times of play in home matches.
"For a day game to have a scheduled close of play after sunset where obviously it's not possible to play - it doesn't sound like common sense to me," Mills said. "Especially when we fought our way into the match and were in a position to win it. We were in a better position today than we were in the last game, which we won. It's a bitter pill to swallow."
"We were told 33 overs, but we were aware that it was going to get dark not long after 5:30 and we probably weren't going to get our full allotment of overs in. I feel like we were slightly hardly done in that situation. Whether we would have gone on to win or lose is not something I can answer, but it is frustrating."
Although the decision to stop play was likely borne out of concern for player safety, New Zealand's batting pair - who were the most at risk - had struck 38 from three overs of pace bowling immediately prior to the game's end. Nathan McCullum had led his team's resurgence with a 19-ball 35, and protested vehemently when the umpires called it off, after Sri Lanka players had implored them to do so.
Perhaps anticipating a gloomy finish, Sri Lanka had uncharacteristically reserved all seven of Lasith Malinga's overs until after the 20th over of the innings.
"To score 90 runs off eight overs at the end is something we could have achieved," Mills said. "We arrived today with high hopes of winning 2-0. That was our goal when we arrived in the country. To walk away 1-1 feels a bit empty to tell you the truth. We had an opportunity to win 2-0, but due to circumstances it wasn't to be."
Mills also took a harsh view of scheduling cricket in Sri Lanka in October and November, after New Zealand's 2012 limited-overs series of Sri Lanka had also fallen in the northeast monsoon months. All three ODIs of this series were severely affected by the weather, with the first match having been washed out and the subsequent matches reduced to 23 and 33-over games, amid interruptions.
"Any cricketer gets frustrated when there's rain about. For every game to get affected is a bit disappointing for both teams and everyone involved, including the spectators, the fans and everyone who has a stake in the game. This is the second year we've been to Sri Lanka in the month of November and every game last year was also affected by rain, but those were the cards we were dealt."
Mills lauded his team's young players however, whom he said had showed considerable promise in the series, in the absence of three top batsmen.
"Today a couple of the young players stood up. Jimmy Neesham played well with the ball bat despite getting dislocated finger at the end of Bangladesh series. Mitchell McClenaghan bowled the best he has bowled all tour today. From the previous game, Tom Latham and Colin Munro - all guys who are inexperienced at this level. We can take a little learning from these games.
"A few guys stepped up and we've persevered really well in tough situations - both times with the ball. Sri Lanka got off to a good start and the way we fought our way back into each innings was exceptionally pleasing, especially today."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here