After a slightly disappointing start of the tournament, the Super 8 stage was set to provide some thrilling encounters. And that was the case with the very first match, between Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Sri Lanka, the home team, were the favourites to win but the odds were closer than they seemed.
Ross Taylor won the toss and chose to bat, New Zealand made sure to not experiment with their batting line-up again, which cost them the game against Pakistan. Martin Guptill returned to replace the young Adam Milne. Sri Lanka took their risk with the unfit Ajantha Mendis and the debutant Akila Dananjaya replacing Munaweera and Herath.
Martin Guptill and Rob Nicol started off slowly scoring just 4 runs in the first two overs, they eventually picked up the momentum and reached 43 by the end of the powerplay. Guptill lost his wicket two overs later to Dananjaya trying to clear the long-off boundary. Nicol continued with the momentum though with some support from Brendon McCullum. McCullum couldn’t make a huge impact as he was sent back to the pavilion in the 13th over by Ajantha Mendis after scoring 25 off 16.
Nicol went on to make a 50 off 36 balls as he took Ajantha Mendis to the stands in the 15th over. He was dismissed in the next over by Dananjaya who ended up with a memorable debut despite getting hit in the face by the ball, taking 2 wickets for 32. Things went down-hill from there for the kiwis as they lost 3 quick wickets for 27 runs thanks to some good death bowling by Kulasekara and Malinga. New Zealand kept fighting till the last ball and managed to reach 174 for the loss of 7 wickets.
Sri Lanka got off to a flyer in their innings as New Zealand’s plan of opening the bowling with Nathan McCullum didn’t work and he got smashed for 17 runs in the first over. Jayawardene and Dilshan went on to score 68 runs in the powerplay (the highest powerplay score in this tournament) and 80 runs in the partnership. After playing a brilliant knock of 44 runs off just 26 balls, the skipper Jayawardene gave away his wicket cheaply to Jacob Oram in the 8th over trying to pull the ball for another boundary. The next batsman, Sangakarra managed to race to 21 off 14 balls before he was run out in the 13th over, despite the poor fielding by the kiwis.
All eyes then shifted to Dilshan who had reached 50 off 32 balls by that time. New Zealand fought back hard creating pressure on Jevan Mendis, who eventually succumbed to it and lost his wicket to Franklin as he tried to drive the ball but ended up in the safe hands of their Skipper Ross Taylor. Sri Lanka crept up to 154-4 in the next three overs. It looked all but over for the kiwis as Dilshan brought up the 100th six of the tournament in the penultimate over leaving Sri Lanka needing just 15 runs off 11 balls to win. But the game turned again as he was run-out next ball after scoring a magnificent 76 off 53 balls. James Franklin fought back in the over removing the next batsman Thisara Perera off the last ball. Sri Lanka were left needing only 8 runs to win off the last over. Sri Lanka again thought they had won the game as they leveled the scored on the second-last ball of the over. And again the game turned around as Thrimmane was run-out off the last ball of the game, which meant the game would be decided by a super-over eliminator.
Sri Lanka batted first in the super over picking Jayawardene, Perera and Dilshan as the three batsmen. Tim Southee, the bowler, prevented them from hitting any boundaries but gave away two wides allowing Sri Lanka to score 13 runs by the end of the over despite losing Jayawardene to a run-out.
The Kiwis decided to go with Guptill, Brendon McCullum and Taylor to face Lasith Malinga. Malinga too prevented the batsmen from hitting boundaries. The game was decided on the penultimate ball of the over as Martin Guptill hit Malinga to long-off and it looked like the ball would clear the rope, but it was caught brilliantly by DIlshan. New Zealand ended up scoring just 7 runs off their over. Tilakaratne Dilshan was rightly named man of the match for his superb innings and the match-deciding catch.
It was a great start for the Super-8 stage. New Zealand put everything in this match but just couldn’t beat the home team and one of the favourites to win this Cup. Sri Lanka are now just one win away from the semi-finals as they face West Indies on Saturday and England on Monday. New Zealand, on the other hand, now have to win both their next games, against England on Saturday and against West Indies on Monday to qualify for the semi-finals.
The blog was first published on the defunct KheloPakistan.com.