One-day internationals (5): New Zealand 4, Sri Lanka 1*
Sri Lanka's brief tour of New Zealand, to complete the one-day series left unfinished after the Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day in 2004, took time to catch the imagination. In fact - at least until the exciting match at Christchurch - there often seemed to be more headline action off the field than on it.
John Bracewell, New Zealand's coach, used to be a spin bowler, but a series of puzzling selections, accompanied by blasé comments not always backed up by logic, suggested that he was now a spin doctor. And while New Zealanders wondered why Craig McMillan had been dropped, why Chris Cairns had been selected after being dropped, and why Nathan Astle seemed to be hovering in selection limbo - he was mystifyingly omitted after his undefeated 90 won the Christchurch match - the Sri Lankans were slowly returning to form.
Their only victory came in the final game, but they might well have won the two before. They were not helped when Sanath Jayasuriya, their most experienced batsman, missed the last three matches after he slipped and reinjured his shoulder when reaching for the shampoo in the shower. As the Jayasuriya head is first cousin to a billiard ball, shampoo did not seem an urgent necessity.
Sri Lanka's last-gasp victory at least sent them across to Australia for the VB Series with increased confidence. The opener Upul Tharanga showed promise, thumping a century at Christchurch, but there was still too much of a quality gap between their senior players and the younger ones. Of the seniors, Muttiah Muralitharan was quiet, if economical, his 40 overs in the four matches bringing him only three wickets for 148 runs.
New Zealand were encouraged by the performances of two new batsmen. Jamie How, the 24-year-old Central Districts opener, made 58 on his debut, while Canterbury's Peter Fulton, 26, hit a match-winning 70 at Queenstown and added his first international century at Napier, on his way to 264 runs in the series, at an average of 88 and an impressive strike-rate of 80.73. The tall Fulton - his nickname is "Two-metre Peter" - looked one for the future, provided he could retain his simple, uncomplicated batting style. The future looked less rosy for Cairns, restored to the one-day side following much public clamour after missing the series in South Africa. He made 40 runs from three innings, and took only three wickets while disappearing for 5.65 runs an over.
* The scoreline includes the first match of the series, which New Zealand won at Auckland on December 26, 2004 (see Wisden 2005, page 1366), before the full effects of the Indian Ocean tsunami became apparent and that tour was abandoned. Coverage of the Test matches, which were postponed until April 2005, starts on page 1099 of this edition.
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