New Zealand Defend Small Total

It was the same ground as the unforgettable 2nd Chappell-Hadlee game, and today WestPac Stadium saw another exciting finish depite the fact that some two hundred fewer runs were scored. New Zealand batted poorly in their first innings, ripped apart by a superb spell from Chaminda Vaas, but a comeback with the ball led by young off-spinner Jeetan Patel brought them back into the game and some vital strikes by Shane Bond put the home team on top, which is where they stayed as they extended their series lead to 4-0.

An injury-depleted New Zealand side made it clear before the match that they intended to bat first, after in recent times proving to be much more successful when chasing. And so, when Stephen Fleming won the toss, that’s what he chose to do. The start of the innings, and in fact the entire innings, proved the theory that they are a better side when chasing to be absolutely correct. Jamie How was caught behind for five, and after being lucky to survive an earlier appeal Lou Vincent soon followed, hooking a ball outside off-stump and being caught, his score just eight.

At 14-2 a partnership was urgently needed, and to some extent it happened. Stephen Fleming and Peter Fulton put on 71 for the third wicket before Fleming charged and missed a straight ball from Vaas who claimed his second wicket and certainly not his last, the returning captain out for a well-made 37. The fourth wicket partnership was a decent one as well, with Fulton and Hamish Marshall putting on 46 before Fulton was caught by Farveez Maharoof off the bowling of Dilhara Fernando, one ball after bringing up his second ODI fifty.

But then the collapse began. Scott Styris fell for 13, Chris Cairns for 2, Brendon McCullum for 1 and Daniel Vettori for 7. Vaas took the first three of those to take a five-wicket bag, his figures an impressive 5-39 from ten. All the while, Marshall worked hard to rediscover the form that has been missing for so long, hitting just one boundary in a battling half century before his innings ended for exactly 50, caught by Vaas off Maharoof. When Vettori followed him not long afterwards the score was 189-9, with even 200 looking in doubt. But a good partnership between the two tailenders, both of whom are considerably better batsmen than the positions they occupy in the usually deep New Zealand order, James Franklin and Shane Bond, guided the home side through to 224-9 from their 50 overs. Franklin finished on 29 from 27, with three fours and a six, while Bond batted well for his 9.

Needing only 225 to win, Sri Lanka would have been considered the favourites during the innings break, and despite the early loss of the Christchurch man of the match Upul Tharanga for 9, that looked to still be the case in the early part of the innings as Kumar Sangakkara and Jehan Mubarak got the chase on track.

Sangakkara played brilliantly, taking to Vettori early in his spell and hitting boundaries at regular intervals with great timing and clean striking. But, as has become a pattern in this match, he departed soon after bringing up his fifty, clean bowled by Cairns for 52. That wicket seemed to bring some life to a previously quiet New Zealand fielding side as Mahela Jayawardene and Marvan Attapattu soon fell, Jayawardene to Franklin and Attapattu to Vettori. The two spinners Vettori and supersub Patel continued to build the pressure on the batsmen, with many swings and misses and a couple of appeals, particularly an lbw appeal against Mubarak by Vettori that the batsman may have been slightly lucky to survive. But despite that close call Mubarak played well, taking on the important role of anchoring the run chase, bringing up his first ODI fifty in the 31st over. However, the trend continued as he hit one straight up in the air to be caught by a diving Cairns.

The wicket was a well-deserved one for Patel, who had bowled brilliantly without luck until that point. The Sri Lankans were clueless against the young Wellington off-spinner, who beat the bat regularly with subtle variations and sharp turn.

At 171-5, needing 55 to win, it was still slightly in Sri Lanka’s favour. But then Bond beat Tillakaratne Dilshan altogether with a fast, straight ball, making it 171-6 and fairly even considering the length of Sri Lanka’s tail. Maharoof came in to join Arnold, and followed two balls later when given lbw to the same bowler, at 151 kilometres an hour it was a ball so fast he hardly saw it. That brought bowling hero Vaas to the crease, with he and particularly Arnold being required to make a good score to give Sri Lanka the win.

With ten overs remaining, 49 were needed from 60. A successful 41st against Vettori was followed by disaster in the 42nd, with Vaas picking out the fielder at point off the bowling of Styris and reducing the score to 184-8. That wicket, interestingly, brought debutant Malinga Bandara to the crease. He had been included as supersub as a bowler, but was brought in to replace Muttiah Muralitharan with the bat.

The situation soon got even worse for Sri Lanka as Arnold, on whom Sri Lanka were relying, was a well-deserved second victim for Patel when he was given lbw for 11, with the score at 189-9, the same as the score New Zealand had. But it didn’t seem likely that Sri Lanka would be able to produce the 10th wicket stand Franklin and Bond did for New Zealand.

Bandara and Fernando bravely swung at a few, the score rising to 203, before Bandara, on 12, hit a Bond ball straight up in the air with the catch taken by Styris to end the match.

In a match that was incredibly different to the last match played on this ground, in which New Zealand just fell short chasing a score of over 300, there was again a thrilling finish as a much lower score was successfully defended. There weren’t many positives for New Zealand in their batting innings, but they bowled brilliantly, particularly Patel, who must surely have bowled the best spell of his career in finishing with 2-23 from his ten. They just took wickets too often after the brilliant Sangakkara was finally removed for Sri Lanka to be able to build their chase.

New Zealand 224-9
Hamish Marshall 50, Peter Fulton 50
Chaminda Vaas 5-39, Dilhara Fernando 2-51

Sri Lanka 203
Jehan Mubarak 53, Kumar Sangakkara 52
Shane Bond 3-39, Jeetan Patel 2-23

New Zealand won by 21 runs.

Cricket Web Player of the Match – Jeetan Patel (10-0-23-2).

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