Sri Lanka remain winless after dominant win from New Zealand

Sri Lanka end their New Zealand tour winless after conceding a 35-run win to New Zealand in the lone T20I at Eden Park in Auckland. Chasing 180 for a win on Friday (January 11), they were bowled out for 144 in 16.5 overs, despite a blazing start, faltering once again in the middle, as has been the trend of their tour. Doug Bracewell and debutant Scott Kuggeleijn’s all-round shows hand New Zealand their third trophy of the tour in what eventually turned out to be a dominant display from the hosts.

Sri Lanka, who failed to register a win across two Tests and three One-Day Internationals, made a beautiful start after opting to field. It was their best chance to beat New Zealand, who had lost nine of their last 10 games in T20Is coming into the clash. Lasith Malinga’s length-variations in the opening over saw the back of dangerman Martin Guptill, whose short-arm pull resulted in a thick top-edge to mid on. Tim Siefert, who was promoted up the order missed out on the chance of proving his prowess, done in by some extra bounce from Kasun Rajitha.

The bowling pair struck again in their successive overs causing a bit of panic as New Zealand were reduced to 27 for 4, in desperate need of a partnership, if they had to get anywhere close to a target that was defendable on a wicket that had rewards for the bowlers, but was going to assist the batsmen majorly. Enter Ross Taylor’s wealth of experience. The veteran batsman scored a sedate 33, but kept Sri Lanka at bay. He shared stands with Mitchell Santner, who came in at No.6, of 28, with Doug Bracewell that fetched New Zealand 47 runs before departing. What that did was take New Zealand over the 100-run mark, leaving the lower order with little to lose in the attempt of slogging their way until the 20th over.

After being 55 for 5 at the halfway mark, that New Zealand, finished with 179 on the board comes down to their lower order that stood up spectacularly on the night. The trio of Doug Bracewell (44 off 26), debutant Scott Kuggeleijn (35* off 15) and skipper Tim Southee (13 off 8) had added 92 runs for their wickets, as New Zealand scored 70 runs off the last four overs, including seven sixes in a display of brutal hitting.

Despite the pitch misbehaving from time to time in the first innings, and little in the second, Sri Lanka made a mess of their chase, that they were ahead in for most of the innings. Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Perera got Sri Lanka off to a blazing start, but the pair falling in the space of five balls within the powerplay set them back both. Sri Lanka, thereafter, found ways of gifting away their wickets at crucial junctures in the chase that conceded the advantage that they had of being ahead of the required run-rate as New Zealand snatched back control.

Thisara Perera kept the visitors on course with a 24-ball 43, with Kusal Mendia and added 49 for the fourth wicket, but that was the last of the resistance or intent offered from the Sri Lankan batsmen. New Zealand used six bowlers on the night, and all returned with rewards, but it was the duo of Lockie Ferguson and Ish Sodhi, who returned three-wicket hauls and caused maximum damage.

Brief scores: New Zealand 179/7 in 20 overs (Ross Taylor 33, Doug Bracewell 44, Scott Kuggeleijn 35*; Kasun Rajitha 3-44) beat Sri Lanka 144 in 16.5 overs (Kusal Perera 23, Thisara Perera 43; Lockie Ferguson 3-21, Ish Sodhi 3-30) by 35 runs.

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