New Zealand steal Hambantota cliffhanger

New Zealand

Wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi, opener Tom Latham and Nathan McCullum orchestrated the near impossible, as New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by four wickets in Tuesday's heavily rain-affected second ODI at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in Sooriyawewa, Hambantota.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi, opener Tom Latham and Nathan McCullum orchestrated the near impossible, as New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by four wickets in Tuesday's heavily rain-affected second ODI at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in Sooriyawewa, Hambantota.

A rain delay of five hours and 30 minutes reduced the fixture to a mere 23 overs per side. The hosts initially moved to 117 for one in 20.4 overs on the back of unbeaten half-centuries from opener Tillakaratne Dilshan and wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara.

Inclement weather, however, halted proceedings until 21:25 local time (15:55 GMT) – before umpires Bruce Oxenford and Ruchira Palliyaguruge were able to revise conditions.

Sangakkara and Dilshan, subsequently, were quick to capitalise on the remaining 14 deliveries of the truncated innings – which brought 21 runs for a final total of 138 for one.

The left-handed Sangakkara finished unbeaten on 71 from just 59 deliveries, while the right-handed Dilshan ended with 55 not out from 72 balls. Each batsman struck nine boundaries during an unbroken 126-run stand, needed after opener Dimuth Karunaratne fell cheaply in the third over.

Seamer Kyle Mills, captaining the side in the absence of the rested Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor and the injured Kane Williamson, was the pick of the visiting bowlers – thanks to figures of one for 16 in five overs.

The Duckworth-Lewis system later adjusted the Kiwis' target to 198 from 23 overs – and the response was soon in trouble at 68 for four before the halfway mark, as seamer Nuwan Kulasekara and spinner Sachithra Senanayake claimed two wickets apiece.

Latham and Ronchi, though, kept the Kiwis in the hunt. The pair, combined for 93 runs inside 10 overs to truly test the resilience of the home bowling attack. Kulasekara's return spell, however, tolled – removing Latham for 86 and Ronchi a single short of a half-ton.

All-rounders Nathan McCullum and Jimmy Neesham consequently chased quick, big runs – and the ballooning asking rate almost proved beyond reach. A peculiar decision to allow spinner Rangana Herath the final over, however, cost Sri Lanka dearly. McCullum lofted 22 runs, including three sixes off its closing four deliveries – ensuring a nail-biting victory for the tourists.

Earlier, the Sri Lankans won the toss and named an unchanged XI, while the Black Caps replaced the injured Corey Anderson and fast bowler Mitchell McClenaghan with Neesham and seamer Andrew Ellis respectively.

The series opener was washed out at the same venue last week, when half-centuries from Dilshan, Sangakkara and captain Angelo Mathews – and an early wicket from fast bowler Lasith Malinga – went in vain.

The third and final ODI will be played at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, which hasn't hosted international cricket since August 2010, on Saturday. A two-match Twenty20 International series at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium will follow next week.

Latest