Sri Lanka beat New Zealand rather easily in the first game of the Compaq Cup tri-series after looking like they were dead and buried at the start of the game. The win meant that New Zealand now has to win its last league against India to have any chance of qualifying for the finals, as a loss here would end their chances of making it to the finals. >
The Sri Lankans won the toss and decided to bat first on a ground which has had a reputation of assisting the team that bats first. In fact all the ten games prior to this one had been decided by the spin of the coin; team wins toss, bats first and win the game. However, it did not seem like the story was going to the script as the Lankans lost T.Dilshan in the very first over, and Mahela Jayawardene in the second. Sanath Jayasuriya pottered around, but when he became Shane Bond’s second victim, Lanka was 22/3 in the eighth over and in trouble.
The trouble continued for the hosts, as they soon lost Kumar Sangakkara to Ian Butler and then after a partnership of 31 runs for the fifth wicket, Thilina Kandamy departed to leave the side tottering at 69/5. Visions of an early finish looked to coming true, before Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews steadied the ship. Taking advantage of a rather defensive Vettori, the duo first started out in the hope of stemming the wickets-fall, but this was soon replaced by some really aggressive batting. Samaraweera is usually known to be a batsman more famous of batting in the test matches, but he overcame his early jitters to smash his first ever ODI century.
At the other end, Mathews also got to his first fifty, and the Lankans got into the Kiwi bowling to get to 216/7 in the fifty overs. It was a healthy total, but one of the lowest ones at the ground in the last dozen games.
Needing to get a sound start from the Kiwis, they had a worse start than the Lankan side; losing three wickets for nothing in five overs. A small partnership of 30 runs – that came off almost 14 overs – Lasith Malinga first had the frustrated Brendon McCullum, who was 14 off 52, bowled. This was followed by a two wickets off two more deliveries in the same over to sink the Kiwis. From 41/6, any recovery would be marginal, and surely enough they collapsed to 119 all out in the 37th over. Grant Elliot was the top-scorer with 41 to his name.
Samaraweera was named the man-of-the-match.
The next game between India and the New Zealanders will be played on Friday.