New Zealand Stroll to Victory

New Zealand extended their lead in the 5-match series (postponed after last year’s series opener due to the Asian Tsunami) to 2-0 with a convincing seven wicket win at Queenstown today. Sri Lanka, after a promising opening partnership, lost too many wickets to post a competitive total on a good batting pitch, leaving New Zealand in a position to take their time in a casual run chase very different to that which we have seen in the last couple of ODIs in which they’ve played.

New Zealand’s stand-in captain Daniel Vettori won the toss and put the visitors in to bat, and there were positive signs from very early in the innings. Although the Sri Lankan openers played well in pushing the score to 23 before the partnership was broken, Shane Bond and Kyle Mills regularly beat the bat in their opening spells before Mills broke through with Sanath Jayasuriya hitting a ball on the off side straight to Lou Vincent on the circle. It all went downhill from there for Sri Lanka, with Bond dismissing Kumar Sangakkara for a duck and Jacob Oram taking the wickets of Upul Thuranga and Mahela Jayawardene as the score sank to 41-4.

After the fourth wicket fell, there was an obvious need for a partnership to rebuild the innings. And that happened to some extent, with Marvan Attapattu and Tillakaratne Dilshan putting on 64 for the fifth wicket, the only partnership of real substance. Attapattu played sensibly and Dilshan aggressively, and for a brief moment it looked as though a good total was still a distinct possibility. But Mills, who was having a great day with the ball, returned to the attack and broke the partnership in his first over, with Attapattu well caught by debutant Jamie How for 35, the start of a far from bad debut performance from the Central Districts opener.

That wicket made the score 105-5, and when Dilshan fell to the bowling of Bond after getting to a good 42, with six down for 133 hopes of reaching 200 were rapidly fading, and rightly so as despite some fight being shown by Chaminda Vaas with 26 and Farveez Maharoof with 18, Sri Lanka were cleaned out in the 48th over for a much too small 164.

Sri Lanka may have held some hope of taking the ten wickets they needed to defend their small total when they removed Vincent for 15 and supersub Nathan Astle for 2 to have the home side at a slightly wobbly 41-2, but the new boys put the result beyond any doubt. How and Peter Fulton started cautiously, but ran well between the wickets and started to hit the ball more impressively by the minute. How played some glorious strokes, particularly down the ground, in a superb debut innings of 58, the highest debut score by a New Zealand opener. Fulton, after disappointing in his only ODI to date with 9 against Bangladesh, was the more cautious of the two early in the partnership but he too opened up near the end and sent his strike rate soaring from the low 50s into the high 80s.

How’s innings eventually came to an end 29 short of the target when he was clean bowled by Jayasuriya, but it was too little, too late for Sri Lanka. Fulton hit is way through to 70 from 79 balls and Hamish Marshall scored a run-a-ball 16 as New Zealand reached the target with the greatest of ease with 13 overs to spare.

Although New Zealand bowled and batted well, it was a disappointing effort by the Sri Lankans. However, as they have only been in the country for a matter of days they may have needed this match to become accustomed to the conditions, something the batsmen obviously hadn’t done judging by the way in which they were dismissed. They have only a matter of days before the next match.

Sri Lanka 164 all out
Tillakaratne Dilshan 42, Marvan Attapattu 35
Shane Bond 3-29, Kyle Mills 3-31

New Zealand 166-3
Peter Fulton 70no, Jamie How 58
Muttiah Muralitharan 1-29, Sanath Jayasuriya 1-35

New Zealand won by 7 wickets.

Cricket Web Player of the Match – Peter Fulton (70 not out)

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