NZ’s the less poor performance

In weather conditions that could not be described as anything better than poor, both Sri Lanka and New Zealand produced batting performances fitting to the conditions as the latter limped to a four-wicket win after Sri Lanka posted their lowest ever score against New Zealand of 112 all out. On a Christchurch pitch nowhere near as bad as the scores suggest, the third one-day international turned out to be a bizarre yet exciting contest as the two sides were once again evenly matched and for the third time in the series the team batting second prevailed.

But on a day that saw some fabulous fielding, farcical batting, excellent bowling, rain interruptions and controversial umpiring, the event that stands out as the most remarkable occurred in the break between innings. Although it has spent the last decade puzzling cricket followers around the world, the Duckworth-Lewis system produced its most inexplicable calculation yet as New Zealand’s target was reduced by three runs. When Sri Lanka’s innings was interrupted at 68-5 the match was reduced to 46 overs a side, meaning that if any change to the target should be made surely it should be increased slightly. But instead New Zealand were set 110 to win from their 46 overs rather than 113.

Earlier in the day, the match began after a 50-minute delay and immediately Sri Lanka were in trouble. Sanath Jayasuriya, whose brutal assault in Napier is no doubt still fresh in the minds of the New Zealand bowlers, was removed without scoring. From there Sri Lanka threatened to recover as Marvan Atapattu scored a brisk 28, but when he fell the rest of the side followed suit with some poor shot selection against good bowling, particularly from Michael Mason who finished with a career-best 4-24. Many of the wickets were claimed due to some fantastic pieces of fielding by a New Zealand side which seems to have no obvious weaknesses in the field. These included an acrobatic one-handed catch down the leg-side by wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum to claim the wicket of Upul Tharanga, a one-handed throw from Daniel Vettori hitting the middle stump to run out opposing captain Mahela Jayawardene and a great stop by James Marshall followed by an impressive flick on to the stumps by McCullum to complete the other run out of the innings, that of Tillakaratne Dilshan.

But after a display in the field that could only be described as perfect, New Zealand did their best to undo all their good work in their chase. Nathan Astle chopped on to Farveez Maharoof for a second-ball duck and Ross Taylor soon followed, although replays later showed that Dilshan had allowed the ball to touch the ground in completing his catch.

Brendon McCullum seemed intent on finishing the game in the first ten overs, smashing 22 of the first 27 runs scored with two excellent sixes, but then mistimed one and was caught by Chamara Silva. When Daniel Vettori and the Marshall twins followed in quick succession, New Zealand collapsed to 70-6 with their target looking an awfully long way away.

But Peter Fulton, who had played well and made the most of the second chance handed to him by a doubtful not out decision on an LBW appeal by Dilhara Fernando, was joined by Queenstown hero James Franklin in the middle and the two always looked in control as they easily managed the last 40 runs. Peter Fulton finished on a polished 43 from 57 balls, clearly the top scorer for the match, and James Franklin played an excellent supporting role for 15.

The first one-day international of 2007 will not be remembered for good batting, but the poor performances by both sides’ batting lineups should not steal the attention from what were excellent displays of bowling and fielding by both teams, which made for an exciting albeit low-scoring contest. The two teams now head to Auckland for the fourth match in the five-match series on Saturday.

Sri Lanka 112 all out
Marvan Atapattu 28, Tillakaratne Dilshan 18
Michael Mason 4-24, Daniel Vettori 2-7

New Zealand 110-6
Peter Fulton 43 no, Brendon McCullum 22
Dilhara Fernando 2-34, Ruchira Perera 2-37

New Zealand won by 4 wickets (D/L method).

Cricket Web Player of the Match – Michael Mason (4-24).

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Richard Edmunds