The game between Sri Lanka and New Zealand on Sunday at Cardiff was basically a case of both sides putting shoddy batting performances, and New Zealand winning because they showed enough pluck at the end, and some luck also went their way. It would be fair to say that there was nothing to choose between the sides, but the Kiwis had the advantage of not chasing a huge score, which made a big difference in the way the game panned out. Eventually, Sri Lanka had to rue the lack of runs in their kitty.
The most disappointing aspect of Sri Lanka’s batting was that only one of their batsmen came up with a substantial score -- in fact only three of them got into double figures. Of them, only Kumar Sangakkara played with the kind of maturity that was apt for the situation. They needed a lot more out of the rest. It would have helped had they got a decent start, but Kusal Perera’s first-ball dismissal by Kyle Mills put them in the backfoot right away. The dismissal of Tillakaratne Dilshan was a bigger setback. The experienced opener had got his eye in, but fell justwhen he should have carried on.
Even as Sangakkara continued to fight along at one end, the rest of the batting effort was disastrously poor. They had plenty of firepower in the likes of Jayawardene, Chandimal, skipper Mathews, Thirimanne and Thisara Perera, but none of them could come up with the goods on the day, a reiteration that a strong batting line-up doesn’t always guarantee a good batting performance. At the same time, it must be said that Sri Lanka should have done much better than they eventually did, especially considering the experience in their batting line-up.
While Lanka were pathetic with the bat, New Zealand were equally good out in the field. Kyle Mills was superb at the top of the order even as Mitchell McClenaghan continued to demonstrate that he is a wicket-taking bowler. The comeback of Daniel Vettori definitely aided New Zealand’s cause. Not only did he keep things tight, but also picked up the major scalp of Jayawardene. Another significant contribution came from Nathan McCullum, who broke Sangakkara’s resistance, and also ensured that the pressure on the other batsmen wasn’t released. Thanks to New Zealand’s all-round bowling effort, Lanka were forever on the back foot.
If New Zealand were superb with the ball, Lanka were equally amazing. Of course, one man was the key in the Asian side fighting back. Lasith Malinga, as usual, raised hopes of another miracle when he outwitted four key New Zealand batsmen in a short span of time. Shaminda Eranga also chipped in well, sending back the openers. However, a few crucial moments were won by New Zealand. Nathan McCullum played an extremely mature hand under pressure, and after he was dismissed, Tim Southee held his nerve very well to see the Kiwis home. A couple of close decisions went against Sri Lanka, but New Zealand must be credited for keeping their cool.
--By A Cricket Analyst