Thirty-five over shoot out at the Hamilton corral

It was like a gunfight at the Hamilton cricket corral

Lynn McConnell
It was like a gunfight at the Hamilton cricket corral. A rain-reduced game on a green pitch.
For a while it seemed the Sri Lankan cannons in the shape of Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana were going to bombard the Kiwis but the home team's sniper fire took toll of the opposition.
By the end of the game at 8.27pm, the batsmen and bowlers needed night scopes to try to do their work.
Ultimately, it was the blazing bats of the Sri Lankans that claimed victory, although under the Duckworth-Lewis system it was only a three-run win, believed to have been the closest yet under the artificial scoring system
In fact, the bad light denied New Zealand the chance of a memorable guerilla raid on the Sri Lankan stronghold.
Had the light stood up to the test, the Sri Lankans were 28 runs short with four overs to go, and struggling with five not very good wickets left.
But again the CLEAR Black Caps paid the price for a lack of runs when batting first. They amassed 182/9 in their 35 overs.
Now in the last game in Christchurch on Sunday they have to try and avoid a 5-0 whitewash.
There was some comfort in seeing skipper Stephen Fleming going for his shots and achieving his best score of the home summer with 67 from 75 balls. His 50 was scored 49 balls with four fours and a six.
But the failure to build partnerships again proved costly and the loss of three wickets for six runs in the space of 20 balls around the business end of the innings at the 30-over mark was a blow.
There was a momentary flash of defiance from Jacob Oram who revealed what an attacking player he could become in time when hitting 24 runs from 12 balls, including a 24-run share of a 26-run over bowled by Aravinda de Silva. He hit three sixes in six balls.
But after his dismissal in the 33rd over, caught on the boundary from Kumar Dharmasena's bowling, New Zealand could only score another 16 runs. It was never going to be enough to defend if they couldn't take early wickets.
Given the leg before wicket dismissals awarded to Sri Lanka to remove Lou Vincent and Chris Harris, New Zealand had cause to feel aggrieved that none of a string of leg before wicket appeals from Daniel Vettori's bowling did not draw a favourable response from Steve Dunne.
Had those appeals been given, the Sri Lankans might not have fared so well in the final outcome.
The bowlers were again a key feature and Nuwan Zoysa's three for 27 off five overs gave him eight wickets in the series so far at 10.25 at an economy rate of 2.92.
He was superbly supported by the Sri Lankan spinners, notably Mutiah Muralitharan who took two for 23 from seven overs while Kumar Dharmasena took one for 21 from seven.
New Zealand's young opening pair of Chris Martin and Darryl Tuffey made a nervous start but came back strongly when Fleming went for the jugular with 14 overs remaining.
Nathan Astle had picked up the two openers at a cost of 22 runs from five overs. Martin then had the wicket of Kumar Sangakkara for 20 and then in the fading light Tuffey picked up two.
Aravinda de Silva was caught in the gully by Jacob Oram for 10 and then Parore held the chance from Russel Arnold. He finished with two for 35 from his seven overs.
That left Sri Lanka 145/5 in the 25th over. With six overs left the game was down to a run a ball contest, but it was clear the advantage was always going to go with the Sri Lankans as long as they could keep wickets intact.
They did, but stuttering as the Kiwi efforts, with both bat and ball, may have been there was encouragement and improvement in some aspects, but much more will be needed before Sunday, and especially before the Pakistan series starting in eight days time.