Sri Lanka were made to fight for victory by a spirited New Zealand side in the opening match of the Coca Cola one-day international series which they won by 16 runs under lights at the R. Premadasa Stadium on Wednesday. Sri Lanka made 220 in 48.5 overs and New Zealand replied with 204 for 9 in 49 overs.
It was not a victory that Sri Lanka could be happy with because they never played to their potential, especially the batsmen who failed to last the fifty overs.
Only skipper Sanath Jayasuriya's knock of 80 off 108 balls stood like a beacon. He won the man-of-the-match award for his effort.
New Zealand were pushed onto the backfoot by the Sri Lankan new ball bowlers Chaminda Vaas and Suresh Perera who sent back both openers with only three runs on the board.
The Kiwis slid further to 100 for five in the 23rd over, before a sixth wicket stand of 57 off 113 balls between Adam Parore and Chris Harris revived their fortunes to some extent.
But the dismissal of Harris for 48 (scored off 93 balls, six fours) by Jayasuriya in the 41st over, saw New Zealand lose their grip once more. They lost four wickets for 31 runs and despite a valiant halfcentury from Parore off 84 balls with one six and one four they fell short by 16 runs in the end.
New Zealand were strangled by the three spinners Muralitharan, Dharmasena and Jayasuriya who took four wickets for 97 runs off 30 overs.
Sri Lanka made a disappointing 220 all out in 48.5 overs after choosing to bat first with skipper Jayasuriya's sedate knock of 80 being the highest score of the match as none of the others stayed long enough to forge a big partnership with him.
The highest of the innings was 56 off 88 balls for the second with between Jayasuriya and his deputy Marvan Atapattu who made 22. Atapattu was another of the top order batsmen who got a start, but failed to produce any innings of substance.
Sri Lanka got off to an excellent start when Avishka Gunawardana (13) and Jayasuriya put on 39 off 46 balls, but after that it was New Zealand who kept the Sri Lankan scoring rate in check with some slick fielding and tight bowling.
Jayasuriya, surviving an early scare for a leg before decision off Darryl Tuffey before he had scored, was forced to bear the burden of his side as wickets started to tumble at regularly. He completed his 43rd one-day fifty off 82 balls with the aid of six fours. Mahela Jayawardene (14), Russel Arnold (9) and Romesh Kaluwitharana (14), all figured in stands of twenties with Jayasuriya which was not what Sri Lanka would have been looking for when they chose to bat first.
Kaluwitharana was unfortunate to be run out, when bowler Jacob Oram came in the way as he desperately tried to make his ground to beat a throw from Lou Vincent from cover. His dismissal followed by that of Kumar Dharmasena (also by a run out) without any runs added to the total, saw Sri Lanka in danger of not using up their entire quota of 50 overs.
Jayasuriya was finally dismissed in the 38th over at 170, when he was caught in the deep mid wicket boundary by Oram off Daniel Vettori. The Sri Lanka captain faced 108 balls and hit eight fours.
In a late spurt Suresh Perera hit a quick 19 off 20 balls, to carry the total past the 200-run mark, but although 220 looked a good enough total for Sri Lanka to defend, it was one that they would be happy with especially with seven balls going unused.
With the exception of Tuffey whose eight overs cost 40 runs and included six wides and five no-balls, the New Zealand bowling was tidy.
As Sri Lanka's innings ended in the 49th over and was completed after the scheduled time for the innings, New Zealand were compelled to face only the same number of overs in keeping with the one-day international playing conditions.
New Zealand play India in the next game on Friday at the same venue.