Sri Lanka’s woeful tour of New Zealand continued as they were thrashed by seven wickets in the first one-dayer at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch. Batting first, the Lankans struggled to put up a good score, and managed only 188 as Matt Henry grabbed four scalps. The New Zealand openers, Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill, then featured in a whirlwind 108-run stand in just 10 overs as New Zealand blasted their way to a seven-wicket win in 21 overs, with a massive 174 balls to spare. While Lanka batted for 219 minutes, New Zealand needed only 92 minutes to finish off the match.
What makes New Zealand’s triumph even more memorable is the fact that the victory was achieved without many of their star performers. Both their pace spearheads, Trent Boult and Tim Southee, were rested. Even their in-form batsman, Kane Williamson was ruled out of the first match with a knee niggle. But, Henry stood up to the challenge, and rocked the Sri Lankan top and middle order very early. In no time, Sri Lanka were reduced to 65 for 6. Half-centuries from Milinda Siriwardana and Nuwan Kulasekara took them to 188, but it wasn’t enough to prevent an embarrassing thrashing.
It was Adam Milne who began the wicket-taking procession for the hosts when he had Danushka Gunathilaka caught behind. The Kiwis had to seek the help of a review to get the decision. The big blow for Lanka came when Tillakarante Dilshan top-edged Henry to midwicket. Henry went on a rampage following Dilshan’s dismissal. Lahiru Thirimanne was trapped lbw having struggled for 18 balls. Skipper Angelo Mathews then outside edged a short outswinger to second slip. Henry had his fourth scalp when Dinesh Chandimal hung his bat outside off stump to offer another simple catch in the slip cordon.
Sri Lanka’s first semblance of resistance came during the partnership between Siriwardana and Chamara Kapugedera. They added 38 before the latter hit Doug Bracewell straight to cover having made only 8. Siriwardana was then joined by Kulasekara, and the combination worked well for the Lankans. By now, the pitch had also eased out. While Siriwardana rotated the strike well, Kulasekara dealt in sixes. He hit five in all as Sri Lanka finally gave their fans something to cheer about. The partnership added 98, but both fell in quick succession, and late strikes by Bracewell and Mitchell McClenaghan kept Lanka under 200.
The chase was over in a flash as McCullum went on the attack in usual fashion, and Guptill played his natural game too. The Kiwi skipper drove with power, and also came up with his famous short arm pulls. Guptill, on the other hand, timed the ball sweetly as the hosts raced to the 100 mark before Sri Lanka’s bowlers could settle in. McCullum raced to his fifty in 23 balls before a leading edge was held at backward point. Guptill’s fifty came off a more sedate 39 balls. Guptill went on to score 79 before holing out to long off. Debutant Henry Nicholls hit back-to-back boundaries to finish off the match in emphatic fashion.
--By A Cricket Correspondent