The Report by Andrew Fidel Fernando
Innings New Zealand 319/7 (Munro 87, Taylor 90, Neesham 64, Malinga 2-45) v Sri Lanka
A better Sri Lanka bowling performance in the final 10 overs saw New Zealand score only 97 in that phase of the innings, but they nevertheless mustered a commanding 319 for 7, with Colin Munro and and Ross Taylor providing more than half the team total between them, as well as the innings’ definitive partnership.
New Zealand had lost two wickets in the Powerplay when the pair came together, but their 112-run stand off 108 balls set the hosts on track to their eventual big total. Munro made 87 – his first half century in 11 innings – Taylor hit 90 to continue a rich vein of ODI form, and as had been the case on Thursday, James Neesham attacked successfully at the death, collecting 64 from 37 balls this time.
Sri Lanka once again lacked penetration through the middle overs, but this time prevented New Zealand by running away from them by effecting no fewer than four run outs, three of which, crucially, ended the innings of a half-centurion. Munro was the victim of a miscommunication with Taylor that saw him charge halfway down the pitch before turning back to the non-striker’s end, too late. Taylor was out at the death attempting to steal a second off the throw of Kusal Perera from fine leg. Later, in the penultimate over, Neesham was out to a direct hit from Nuwan Pradeep, who had delivered an excellent bouncer, then turned to throw down the non-striker’s stumps as the batsmen attempted a quick single. Wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Seifert was also run out off the last ball of the innings.
Without those run out dismissals, Sri Lanka might have been in even worse trouble. Lasith Malinga was their best bowler, taking 2 for 45 from his 10 overs, and Pradeep had struck in the Powerplay to have Kane Williamson mis-hitting a pull to fine leg, but beyond their opening quicks, no Sri Lankan bowlers mustered a breakthrough. Legspinner Seekkuge Prasanna should have had a wicket to his name, however, had Dinesh Chandimal not misjudged Munro’s strike down the ground in the 20th over. Chandimal ran in from the long on boundary upon seeing the ball fly towards him, but had not accounted for the wind which was aiding the ball’s flight. He tried to backpedal late, but wound up only palming the ball for four. Munro would go on to make 27 further runs after that reprieve.
Earlier, in the second over of the innings, there had been signs that this would be a fruitful day for Munro. He struck three fours off Pradeep’s first over, drilling him down the ground, crashing him over midwicket, then carving him through the covers, as Pradeep strained to find his line on a surface offering little seam movement. Munro had been dismissed by a Lasith Malinga slower ball in the first ODI, but was wise to the slower ones in this innings, at times even cracking them to the boundary when they were misdirected.
He was aggressive in the Powerplay, and did not ease up when it ended, bringing up a long-awaited half-century with a four past extra cover in the 14th over. Taylor, meanwhile, was playing a characteristically wise ODI innings. He was reserved with his big shots, and instead manipulated the ball into gaps efficiently. Only 22 of his runs came from boundaries, with singles and twos on the legside most heavily populating his innings. This was his fifth fifty-plus knock in his last five ODI innings, with scores of 54, 86*, 80 and 181* having come before it. In fact, in his last 10 innings, he has missed a half-century only twice.
Neesham was in obviously outstanding touch when he arrived at the crease, and he would go on to score heavily off Thisara Perera again. He wasn’t quite as severe on Thisara as he had been in the last game (when he clubbed 34 off a Perera over), but it wasn’t far off – Neesham reaping 26 from the 8 balls Thisara sent at him.
The remainder of Sri Lanka’s death bowling went as well as could be expected, given the opposition waltzed into the 40th over at 222 for 4. This is a slower pitch, but Sri Lanka will at least heave a sigh of relief that their target does not exceed 350 this time.