New Zealand v Sri Lanka, World T20, Group 1, Chittagong March 31, 2014

New Zealand blindsided as spin takes hold

After removing Sri Lanka for 119 it all looked set for New Zealand to book a semi-final place, but things were a little different in Chittagong's final match of the tournament

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Crowe: Herath immaculate from ball one

When Brendon McCullum skipped towards Rangana Herath and aimed a scything blow down the ground, it carried the intent of a team's star player embossing his mark on the game. What followed certainly set the tone. Unfortunately for New Zealand, it was Herath who turned out to be the match-winner.

Herath had already executed a run-out off his own bowling when McCullum arrived at the crease. New Zealand's captain defended a couple before Herath's fifth delivery went on with the arm to strike the pad, resulting in an excited lbw appeal. The next was tossed up and this time it dipped, gripped and slipped past McCullum's outside edge, leaving him short of his ground. New Zealand had been struck a blow they would not recover from.

In Herath's following over, still having not conceded a run, three consecutive deliveries thudded into Ross Taylor's pad, the last of which no umpire could deny. With a short leg and a slip in place, his next ball insinuated its way through a befuddled Jimmy Neesham and New Zealand were four down, pinned likes flies on a windshield by the dawning realisation that this was the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury pitch, Jim, but not as we know it.

Two tracks have been in rotation in Chittagong, with four matchdays apiece. The pace and bounce had encouraged McCullum to suggest New Zealand, South Africa and England would prefer the conditions, particularly in the evening when dew helped the ball zip on. Sri Lanka were spectacularly burned by England and Alex Hales on Thursday but, after two weeks of competition, the ground suddenly shifted under New Zealand's feet. Their misfortune, perhaps, was to face a must-win game on a worn pitch against the only subcontinental side in the group.

McCullum certainly felt a little blindsided, though he stressed that the better team on the night had won. Winning the toss and then bowling out Sri Lanka for 119 seemed to have given New Zealand a brightly lit path to the semi-finals but the ball held up a lot more than previously, while the absence of dew meant Sri Lanka's spinners were not handicapped in the same way they were against England.

"The wicket was completely different," McCullum said. "We anticipated it to skid on as it has done right throughout every game that has been played here and every team that has won the toss has wanted to chase at night. We expected that to happen but it was really dry, almost a little bit underprepared, the way it played towards the end, and we didn't adapt our games quick enough.

"There were some soft dismissals, poor options, myself included and we couldn't find the balance between being aggressive enough to get us a start chasing a small total, and conserving wickets and trying to stem the flow of their momentum. In the end the team that won and qualified for the semi-finals is a far better team than us."

The groundstaff had been using a spray to try and reduce the effect of dew but this appeared to be the first evening match on which it had any affect. "We found out midway through the game that the outfield was sprayed for anti-dew, which obviously hasn't been done throughout the rest of the tournament, so that was a bit of a surprise as well," McCullum said.

"I think as long as the conditions are consistent throughout, so the teams can get a strategy and an understanding - it's disappointing to see them change so much in one game but we should have been better than that as well. Certainly no sour grapes from our point of view, we certainly should have chased down 120 and only getting halfway is nowhere near good enough."

With Herath barking out time like an army drill instructor, McCullum's side were whirled into oblivion, bowled out for the lowest total by a Full Member side in T20 internationals, despite Kane Williamson making 42 - more than two thirds of their runs. Williamson was New Zealand's leading batsman at the tournament, as more explosive team-mates such as Martin Guptill, Corey Anderson - who did not bat against Sri Lanka after dislocating his finger - and to a lesser extent McCullum failed to fire.

"Batting at No.3 and the role that I've played for us for a period of time, we rely on me to make contributions and running down the wicket and getting stumped for nought trying to create some intensity in that first six overs was not ideal," McCullum said. "At two down, I still thought we were going to chase 120 but I'm disappointed not to make a contribution and to get out like that as well. I still thought we should have chased it... at least got a lot closer."

Defeat revived memories of New Zealand's recent troubles in Bangladesh, where they were whitewashed in ODIs for the second time late last year. They were not among the World T20 favourites, nor were they the side a majority of the crowd came to cheer on. The dreaded presence of the Mexican wave rippling around the stands suggested how easy Sri Lanka had made look what should have been a difficult game.

Having stumbled short of the winning post against South Africa earlier in the group, when they only need seven off the final over with five wickets in hand, McCullum acknowledged that improvements would be required if New Zealand are to produce the desired challenge on home soil at the 2015 World Cup.

"I said right at the outset that we were going to have to play well, right from the start of the tournament. We're not good enough to only play at 80%. There's been some things that irked me throughout the tournament and I'll be addressing those later. But I thought our cricket smarts weren't there, when you're playing on these surfaces that are foreign to what we're used to and the nature of T20, you've got to be very smart and decisive with your decision-making as well.

"You can't afford to be lacking in cricket intelligence. That's what I think we lacked in this tournament and hence we coughed up some opportunities to win games that we should have. Something is going to have to change at some stage, otherwise we'll keep turning up a tournaments, winning a couple, losing a couple and never claiming any silver. That's not what we play for and something's going to have to change if New Zealand's going to start winning major tournaments."

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kepili on April 1, 2014, 19:50 GMT

    SL had to fight many battles apart from cricket to secure a place in SF, being the only subcontinental team in Chittagong group. Pace & bouncy conditions helped NZ, SA, Eng particularly in the evening, when dew helped the ball zip on & the spinners became virtually ineffective due to the wet ball . Therefore, SL did not have the luxury the other 3 subcontinent sides enjoyed playing in Mirpur! 1) SL had 3/4 of their outings scheduled in the late evening slot (battling to grip the ball & failing to defend 190 Vs Eng in that "Humid-Sauna" dome was a prime example). 2) Double standard inconsistent umpiring consistently battered SL. FREQUENCY of CUTTING SHORT SL BATTING & LETTING OFF FELLING OPPONENTS was clearly beyond the PROBABILITY of MARGINAL ERRORS! IGNORED wides & above waist/head NB etc. added to the tally. In any format, this is major battle to face apart from cricket. This is Why the DRS is so vital to any NON INFLUENTIAL team like SL & to the FUTURE EXISTENCE of GENUINE SPORT!

  • Reg on April 1, 2014, 15:36 GMT

    To St John: when Martin Crowe said that making Malinga the captain would be a fatal mistake he was only talking sense. But of course he wasn't really the captain, which became crystal clear when the camera rested on him asking Mahela about whether he (Malinga) should be bowling.

    I reckon that the "Captain" tag was an honorary ranking acknowledging his massive role in Sri Lankan cricket. Indeed, it was his 250th International match (30 tests, 166 ODIs, and now 54 T20Is). I guess no-one outside the Sri Lankan management thought to do the arithmetic before the game.

    Regardless of this "mistake" I think Crowe's analysis through the series has been brilliant, and it just highlights the waste of his talents by NZCricket over many years.

  • Kepili on April 1, 2014, 15:19 GMT

    It's a great achievement by Herath the "Buried Gem"… the most experienced/talented/deserving spinner in the side, yet drastically underutilized, unrecognized, in t20 & ODIs. This could be due to the ABERRANT selection criteria prevailing in SLC. After Murali, Hearth should have been the first choice in the spinning department. But, repeatedly he was sidelined, preferring players like Jeewan Mendis (so called all-rounder) by the selectors! They tried all sorts of rookies in his place. Ultimately, he came for the rescue of SL in the solitary chance he got in long while! But, surely he would not cement his place in the side, as happened (in history) to many other purely talented/experienced players who had done so. Tomorrow, it will be forgotten again & SLC will continue with their preferred choices or try new ones. At 32yrs, Herath has at least another FIVE yrs of productive spinning shelf-life remaining. Unfortunately, he is just another Gem, which has no value in SLC..!!!

  • Saman on April 1, 2014, 14:56 GMT

    Sanga did a big mistake in the world cup final to leave Rangana out and bring Suraj Randiv in. Rangana performed really well in the quarter final and the semi final. But still he didn't have chance in the final 11 of the final match. Similarly Mahel did a big blunder in the T20 final to leave Rangana out and Akila Dananjaya in. Rangana did a marvelous job in the semi final and took 3 wickets to restrict Pakistan to 120 odd runs. But still he didn't have a chance in the final.

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2014, 13:14 GMT

    Did McCullum just blame "Anti Dew". I'm sure it was a huge factor when he was STUMPED in early overs.

    And the should've known this will be used when ICC pitches consultant Andy Atkinson called up the Delhi & District Cricket Association for Anti Dew agents on the March 24th. It was on newspapers and I'm sure if blackcaps picked up a spots page and read them they would've known.

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2014, 13:07 GMT

    @didn't we just beat India and Pakistan in the Asia cup to win the Asia cup. Do you have a memory deficiency ?

  • Rupert on April 1, 2014, 10:43 GMT

    Martin Crowe said in an interview before the match that if Malinga was captaining the SL team, Sri Lanka would definitely loose. He was quite adamant of that. It shows that Crowe doesn't know much of the SL team position. Disputes with the SL board & Selector Jayasuriya resulted in Mahela & Sangakarra refusing the captaincy. Dilshan also opted out. Malinga was captain only in name. Mahela & the rest directed operations and Malinga complied.

  • Dinesh on April 1, 2014, 10:38 GMT

    If kusal in the middle another 5,6 over SL shows their capabilities unfortunately given out for n/o Ithink this is the time to Introduce DRS for T20s

  • Hanaas on April 1, 2014, 10:20 GMT

    @GRVJPR, We never seen any notice, bulletin or news from ICC appointing you to grade the pitches. May be you are come from one of the country (specially, England, New Zealand or more probably from Australia) and that's why so much hatred towards our great Sri Lanka, which won the Asia Cup. Why don't you take away the hate from you heart and accept the fact that the best team win without blaming pitches and climates. If a team can't adopt them selves according to playing conditions including pitch conditions than sorry they should stay in their own country without participating any international matches expecting that the pitches will adopt themselves according to teams. And that 20 degree bend talk has gone, gone gone away from all our minds and it is unfortunate you still holding on to it. Dear friend, come and enjoy the matches without hatred in your heart.

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2014, 9:22 GMT

    @Muneeb_Dawood feel sorry about you mate. Stop hating Sri lanka. it is a small country with so much talent. Accept the truth. Not only cricket even in education, health we stand ahead.

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