Having lost the 7-match series already, Sri Lanka were content in taking the last game from the hosts at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on January 29. To a solid foundation laid by Lahiru Thirimanne and Tilakaratne Dilshan, Kumara Sangakkara added his mercurial touch with a scintillating hundred. Sri Lanka reached 175 before the 35th over with 9 wickets left. They could easily have crossed 300 but a middle order wobble prevented that. In any case the victory target of 288 was a bit too much for the New Zealand side as they were bowled out in the 46th over to hand over a 34 run victory to the visitors.
Sri Lanka captain Lahiru Thirimanne won the toss and his decision to bat first proved wise. He came out to open with Tilakaratne Dilshan and the two batsmen added 71. In the 15th over, Sri Lanka lost Thirimanne, who was trapped plumb in front of the wicket by a speeding in-swinger from Corey Anderson. But Sri Lanka was not bothered as Sangakkara joined Dilshan and the two batsmen carried on merrily. They added 104 for the second wicket in 17.4 overs and Sri Lanka were poised to reach a commanding total. Dilshan was out at 175 to a soft dismissal even as he looked set to reach his third century of the series but ended up scoring 81 off 98 balls. Mahela Jayawardane joined his old colleague Sangakkara and the two added another 28 before Tim Southee accounted for Jayawardene. In trying to glide a faster ball off-side ball from Southee to third man, Jayawardane only managed a nick that Ronchi held marvelously with a great dive on his right. Once Jayawardane left, Seekkuge Prasanna and Dinesh Chandimal followed him back to the pavilion. With Chandimal taking 15 balls for just 5 runs, the tempo of scoring slowed down and even Sanga was affected. However with Thisara Perera chipping in 20 off 12, Sangakkara came into his own once again. He reached his second century of the series in the 49th over from Mitchell McClenaghan, when the charismatic Sri Lankan executed a powerful rocket-like pull shot through the midwicket. Sanga remained not out on 113 off 105 balls, when Sri Lanka ended their 50 overs on 287/6.
The victory target of 288 was challenging but not insurmountable for New Zealand given their exploits in recent past. But they began losing wickets straightaway. Nuwan Kulasekara opened with a dream first ball that struck Martin Guptill on the pads. The umpire raised his finger almost with the vociferous appeal from the Sri Lankan fielders. Guptill was followed quickly in the dressing room by Tom Latham and Ross Taylor and New Zealand tottered at 42/3 in the 12th over. Kane Williamson and Grant Elliot added 59 for the fourth wicket and brought some respectability to the score. But after that, Elliot, Williamson and Anderson also got out to make it 141/6 in the 31st over. Debutant Sri Lanka bowler Dushmantha Chameera accounted for two wickets. The first was a beauty bowled at 146 kmph that took Ross Taylor by surprise as he dragged a bottom edge onto the stumps. Chameera’s next victim was Elliot, who tried pulling a 139 kmph ball but couldn’t keep it down and Dinesh Chandimal held a nice catch. Luke Ronchi and Daniel Vettori steadied the New Zealand boat with a 74-run seventh wicket stand but Sri Lankan bowlers kept a tight leash and bowled out the hosts for 253 in the 46th over. In the end, Sri Lanka finished the ODI series with a 34-run well-deserved victory.
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