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The Report by Andrew Fidel Fernando
November 21, 2013
Sri Lanka 143 for 2 (Dilshan 59*, Kusal 57) beat New Zealand 142 for 7 (Ronchi 34*, Devcich 30) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sri Lanka pick up over-rate penalty
Kusal Perera and Tillakaratne Dilshan struck 96 rapid runs together, as Sri Lanka comfortably hunted down New Zealand's modest 142 for 7 to take the series 1-0. Both hit half-centuries, and while Kusal's was the more belligerent, and the more attractive, Dilshan again whet his increasing appetite to bring chases home. He was unbeaten on 59 off 49 balls - his seventh international fifty in eight innings - after Kusal had walloped 57 from 37.
Miserly debutant Ramith Rambukwella had been the only man to deliver four overs in a row for Sri Lanka, as Dinesh Chandimal made fine use of the Twenty20 bowling stocks at his disposal. All seven bowlers were called upon, injected in short spells and replaced swiftly when the batsmen showed signs of comfort. New Zealand did not suffer a collapse, but partnerships were prevented, and on a tacky surface, Sri Lanka's controlled showing prevented even the in-form Nathan McCullum from doing unmanageable damage at the death.
Though Kusal's innings was emphatic, it had its share of good fortune. He lofted his second ball high over the long-on boundary, but two deliveries later, should have been trudging back to the dugout, when he pulled Mitchell McClenaghan to Andrew Ellis, at backward square-leg. Ellis shelled that chance, perhaps because the ball was hit so hard, but Colin Munro did not have that excuse on the long leg boundary, when he too spilt one, with Kusal on 39.
In between the drops, Kusal's strokes veered from excellent to extraordinary. A swinging length ball from Kyle Mills was launched into the sightscreen before he leant back to the next delivery and eased it between point and cover. A good eye and lightning bat speed are the pillars of his batting, and though there were plays and misses as well, the balls he hit almost invariably sped off the bat.
Even in his short international career, though, he has tended to perish attacking, and despite two let offs, he did so again. Having crossed 50 off 31 balls - his second Twenty20 half-century - he came down the pitch to send Rob Nicol high into the air, off his top edge. Nicol moved a few meters to his left to complete the catch.
In what is developing into a trend, for Dilshan, he was the slower of the two batsmen, whose partnership propelled Sri Lanka well beyond the asking rate and to eventual victory. There were no flashy strokes in his fifty, only measured attacks on poor bowling. Showing respect to New Zealand bowlers he did not fancy, he made sure he would be around to soak up the large crowd's applause at the end.
Hamish Rutherford had waited all tour for a match, but lasted only four balls, nicking Nuwan Kulasekara's first ball - an away-swinger - to the keeper. Charging down the pitch to miscue an Angelo Mathews' short ball, Neil Broom failed to impress in his first match for New Zealand in three-and-a-half years.
The early strikes forced caution into New Zealand's batting, and perhaps they reasoned they would make amends with violence later on, as they had in the ODIs. Only, no pair truly established rhythm at the crease, and the bowling changes brought wickets as well as a subdued run rate. Until the 16th over, New Zealand did not score at much more than a run-a-ball.
McCullum had been a high-impact batsman during the ODIs, and though flashes of that form bore two fours in the penultimate over, the tackiness of the surface and a controlled death-overs showing from Sri Lanka prevented him from truly freeing his arms. He was run out going for an ambitious second in the final over, before a hitherto expensive Lasith Malinga trapped Nicol in front.
Rambukwella produced exactly the sort of spell he had been picked for, conceding less than five an over with his tight offspin. He rarely departed from the length ball, pitched outside off stump, but his skill was tweaking the manner in which the ball arrived. Some were flighted, others were slow and flat, but most were darted in - sometimes after a pause in his delivery stride.
Sri Lanka's eight-wicket win was an apt reflection of their dominance over a severely depleted New Zealand side, and the hosts protect their No. 1 ranking as well. This match was supposed to be the second in the series, but Tuesday's game was rained out, turning this into a one-off.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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