Sanath Jayasuriya put on a brutal batting display, crashing 111 off 82 deliveries, to set up Sri Lanka's emphatic seven-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first match of a five-game series at Napier. New Zealand's testing target of 286, boosted by Ross Taylor's outstanding maiden century, posed little threat to Sri Lanka who cruised home with 10 overs to spare.
New Zealand would have harboured hopes of winning after reaching 285 for 8, but this was only a par score on a superb batting strip. Ultimately - although their bowlers had a day to forget - New Zealand paid the price for losing momentum after a 151-run second-wicket stand between Taylor, who was unbeaten on 128, and Nathan Astle.
In the 29th over, New Zealand were steaming along at 169 for 1 but Sri Lanka dragged themselves back into the contest. Their trio of spinners - Muttiah Muralitharan, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Jayasuriya, the most economical of the bowlers - applied the brakes before Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga claimed late wickets.
Sri Lanka, as they did at Leeds when they chased down 322 with 12.3 overs to spare, also launched an assault in the Powerplays. Jayasuriya began by swivel-pulling Michael Mason to the fence in the second over. However, the fireworks really started after the first five overs when Jayasuriya, having played himself in, cut loose. At the other end, Upul Tharanga also played beautifully for his 68 off 73 balls but he was always in Jayasuriya's shadow. During one particularly savage over, Andre Adams was pummelled for three fours and a towering six over long on.
The pair amassed 110 runs during an amazing period between the fifth and 15th overs, taking advantage of a ragged display from an inexperienced bowling unit missing Shane Bond, Jacob Oram and Kyle Mills. Mason, 0 for 60 off six overs, and Adams, 0 for 45 off his first four, bled the most.
James Franklin did effect a double-strike in the 25th over when Jayasuriya was caught at third man and Tharanga nicked the next ball but by then, with 201 runs already on the board, the damage was beyond repair. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara added a run-a-ball 70 and an out-of-sorts Marvan Atapattu made 10 not out to seal victory.
After New Zealand won the toss in the morning, Astle overcame a scratchy start and dominated proceedings. Troubled on occasion by Vaas's shrewd opening spell, he top-edged a skier on eight that at least four people could have caught on the off side. But with the ball swirling around, Marvan Atapattu at extra-cover, standing just yards from where the ball eventually landed, bizarrely left it to Chamara Silva who dashed across from cover and dropped the catch after a desperate dive.
Astle celebrated his let-off with a run spree, taking 14 off Lasith Malinga's fourth over, including two streaky boundaries and one intentional upper cut for six. That over provided the momentum the innings needed and during the next hour-and-a-half New Zealand breezed along. Astle took particular toll of Malinga, who was removed after conceding 38 off five overs. Taylor grew more assertive and crashed two cover drives and one neat leg glance to the boundary in Vaas's seventh over, and two overs later he lifted the first of four sixes when he walked across his stumps and flicked Dilhara Fernando over the square-leg fence.
Sri Lanka were losing control and, having opted for just three fast bowlers, were forced to turn to their spinners early. This put Muralitharan, who dislikes bowling in Powerplays, under pressure and while the run-scoring slowed slightly, New Zealand were still on course for a massive total.
Sri Lanka clawed back after Astle was dismissed with the score on 169 for 1 in the 29th over and period of consolidation followed with Tillakaratne Dilshan and Jayasuriya bowling tightly. Taylor savaged Dilshan in his fifth over, lofting him for two magnificent sixes over the onside, but Sri Lanka sensed they were back in the game.
Taylor, however, was just too good. Suffering from cramps, he saw off Murali while in the 90s, and reached his century with a push towards point in the 45th over. Twice he fell to the ground attempting big shots, but despite the pain he smoked Fernando for his fourth six, a clean hit over midwicket, and hobbled doubles when he could. But a poor bowling effort ensured that his maiden one-day century was in vain.