Sri Lanka scored a sensational victory over New Zealand by wrapping up victory by 106 runs in Sharjah in the second encounter in the ARY Gold Cup.
Set a target of 270 the CLEAR Black Caps could only manage 163 as the Sri Lankan spinners proved beyond the comprehension of an otherwise well balanced New Zealand side.
This was a match of fluctuating fortunes in which Sri Lanka picked up from a disastrous start, having won the toss and elected to bat on a flat pitch. Daryl Tuffey struck twice in the first over of the day: Atapattu lbw with no score on the board as, for the second time in the tournament, Sri Lanka lost their first wicket to the second ball of the day. Moments later Kumara Sangakkara offered an outside edge to wicket keeper Chris Nevin, again off Tuffey.
Skipper Sanath Jayasuriya and his partner Mahela Jayawardene then succeeded in stemming the rot, adding 58 runs in the first 15 overs, gradually at first before Jayawardene completed a splendid 50 in 65 balls with seven fours. Jayasuriya, however, remained steady with 22 runs in 60 balls.
The 100 came up in the 24th over as the two batsmen took total command, while in 33rd over Jayawardene hoisted his chanceless century with the help of 11 fours and Jayasuriya completed a steady but highly invaluable half-century.
The complexion of the game changed when in an effort to raise the run rate, the batsmen took a few chances. As a result Sri Lanka lost two quick wickets. Caught by Vincent off Tuffey, Jayawardene departed after playing a magnificent innings of 116, his fifth century in one-day cricket and second at Sharjah. Russel Arnold, who had only just come in to bat, followed hard on his heels. Sri Lanka were 188 for 4.
Jayasuriya was now on the rampage. He smashed Chris Harris for 4 consecutive sixes, plundering a record 30 runs from a single over and in the process completed his century. Continuing with his hitting spree, Jayasuriya sacrificed his wicket after playing a glorious innings of 107.
In the rush to collect quick runs wickets fell quickly; finally bringing Sri Lanka's innings to a close at 269 for 9. Daryl Tuffey and Andre Adams bowled well to claim 3 wickets each. A target of 270 runs was a wonderful performance after a dismal start.
New Zealand started off in an aggressive mood with opener Chris Nevin getting off the mark with a four. With Sinclair he collected 21 runs in the first 3 overs, and brought up the 50 in the 10th over with a superb display of running between the wickets.
In 15 overs, New Zealand was 82 for no loss with Nevin (48) and Sinclair (33) looking unperturbed. However, Nevin was then trapped lbw by Muralitharan by a delivery that came back from well outside the off stump. He had scored 48 off 50 balls.
Andre Adams came and went quickly, playing aggressively, he was caught by Indika de Saram off Muralitharan. The Black Caps lost their initial momentum, with the 100 coming up in 22 overs. They lost their third wicket immediately after when Craig McMillan was ousted by Russel Arnold for 11. New Zealand was 110 for 3 with Sinclair holding the fort with a gallant 43.
Just as Sinclair completed his 50 in 71 balls, his partner Lou Vincent was bowled by Jayasuriya bringing New Zealand to 116 for 4 and putting them under tremendous pressure. The Sri Lankan spinners were wreaking havoc with the ball and Jacob Oram soon followed.
The decisive blow was struck in the very next over when Sinclair, who had held the innings together, was declared lbw off Arnold for an excellent 60. The procession continued with Chris Harris the last to go at 163.
Sri Lanka achieved the triumph by 106 runs. Muralitharan the master craftsman clinched three wickets while his disciples; Dharmasena, Jayasuriya and Arnold took two wickets each. It was surprising to see the CLEAR Black Caps proving so fragile against spin bowling.