New Zealand virtually pulled the rug from under the feet of the Sri Lankans when they beat the islanders by 11 runs in the second match of the Sharjah Cup one day tournament here on Tuesday. Scores: New Zealand 218 for 8; Sri Lanka 207 all out in 49.1 overs.
But the Sri Lankans must only blame themselves for the result. They were too confident after having restricted New Zealand to 218 and were probably over confident after their convincing win against Pakistan in the opener on Monday.
New Zealand should thank their bowlers, who did a wonderful job to practically strangulate the Lanka batsmen. Surprisingly the Sri Lankan batsmen never looked like enjoying the going and appeared under pressure as soon as skipper Sanath Jayasuriya was dismissed by Daryl Tuffey in the very first over.
Marvan Atapattu (61) lived a charmed life having been dropped thrice before being finally caught by Butler off Harris. His departure seemed to completely dampened the spirits of the Lankan batsmen and realising this skipper Stephen Fleming began putting the pressure. The fielders looked transformed and the Kiwi bowlers bowled their hearts out to send the last five Sri Lankan batsmen packing for only 34 runs.
Earlier, New Zealand won the toss and decided to bat first. They suffered two early setbacks, losing Nathan Astle and Craig Mcmillan with only 31 runs on the board. Astle, who had come to this desert city with two outstanding performances to his credit - a one-day century followed by fastest Test double hundred, both against England last month. Both wickets were claimed by Nuwan Zoysa, who finished with match figures of 2 for 37 from 7 overs.
But it was again Muttiah Muralidharan who practically mesmerised the New Zealand line-up with his off spin to capture 5 for 9 from his 10 over quota. It was a fantastic performance by the spin wizard, who came very near to his best in Sharjah - 7 for 30 against India in October 2000. Even after the a rather disastrous start the Kiwis tried to regroup with skipper Stephen Fleming and wicket-keeper opener Chris Nevin adding 55 runs for the 3rd wicket partnership. Fleming was the first of Murli's five victims, being caught by Russel Arnold after making 34.
Nevin was unlucky to be victim of umpire Venkatraghawan's rather poor judgment. Murli's delivery hit his front leg and Arnold brought out a good diving catch. What was the reason that Venkat sought the advice of the TV umpire is a mystery. One could see even from the pavilion that the ball had hit the pad but Venkat thought otherwise and the TV umpire Sheperd ruled that Arnold's catch was in order.
That one decision apparently turned the game and although Chris Harris with Mathew Sinclair added 56 runs to take the score to 155 when New Zealand lost its 6th wicket. A last a ditch effort by Jacob Oram(46 n.o) helped the Kiwis cross the 200 mark and they managed to get 218 for 8 wickets from 50 overs.