Sri Lanka CricketAfter AB de Villiers’ 31-ball hundred last Sunday at Johannesburg, another ODI record was shattered on Friday, January 23, 2015 in faraway Dunedin. Just when everyone thought that New Zealand would be run over by the touring Sri Lanka side, Luke Ronchi and Grant Elliot produced an unbeaten sixth-wicket stand of 267 runs off just 180 balls that turned the hunter into hunted. In one of the most gargantuan display of assaulting cricket, the two New Zealanders plundered Sri Lankan bowlers like never before and progressed from a humiliating 93/5 to a mammoth 360/5 at the end of 50 overs. Despite such shocking battering, Sri Lanka put up a brave face and reached 211/2 in the 36th over. After that, the loss of momentum resulted in 8 wickets tumbling in the next 8 overs for the addition of just 41 additional runs. New Zealand registered a 108 run victory and took 3-1 lead in the 7-match ODI series.

Sri Lanka’s decision to field first after winning the toss looked justified, when Nuwan Kulasekara made Martin Guptill play half-heartedly off his first ball of the match with the tickle landing in the gloves of Sangakkara. Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson steadied the boat somewhat and played out the next 10.4 overs to add 51 runs. However, Kulasekara struck again, when the New Zealand skipper received a speeding ball on his pads as he shaped for a drive. McCullum took the review but he had to go. 12 balls later, Thisara Perera took out the dangerous Kane Williamson with another express delivery, which was nicked by the batsman to the keeper. Sri Lankans were rejuvenated to see the backs of two New Zealanders, who can wreak havoc against any attack. 60/3 at the end of 13 overs indicated that Sri Lanka had the hosts by the scruff of their necks. That became even more promising after another 7 overs, when Sri Lanka skipper Lahiru Thirimanne sent back Ross Taylor, who picked an-offside wide ball and swung it over midwicket for the simplest of catches. Then Thirimanne got lucky to extract an LBW decision against Corey Anderson in the 20th over to make it 93/5. The replays showed that the ball would have left Anderson’s leg stump by a whisker. But Sri Lankans rode their luck and had all the reasons to feel on top of the world after finishing off 20 overs and sending back the cream of New Zealand batsmen into the pavilion. At this stage, Sri Lanka skipper couldn’t have imagined the rest of the story that was to unfold.

The fall of Anderson brought Luke Ronchi out in the middle to join Grant Elliot, who had only scored 9 from 15 balls faced until then. They added just 14 in the next four overs. But then the fireworks began. Jeevan Mendis was clobbered for two consecutive sixes by Ronchi as the 25th over yielded 15 runs. As the partnership blossomed, Sri Lanka did their best to separate the two New Zealanders. But Ronchi and Elliot had other ideas. Ronchi reached his sixth ODI fifty off 38 balls and Elliot reached his off 59 in the 35th over, soon after the duo had completed their 100-run partnership. In the next 15 overs, Ronchi and Elliot added 164 runs and tore the Sri Lankan bowling apart. In between the rollicking Ronchi completed his first ODI century and Elliot did so soon after. Their unbroken sixth-wicket stand was worth 267 runs off 180 balls. For the sixth wicket, this was the highest partnership ever in ODI history. But more important than the numbers, it was the timing, which proved crucial. Sri Lanka’s hopes of squaring the 7-match series 2-2 were dealt a deathly blow by superlative batting that took the final New Zealand score to 360 at the end of 50 overs. Ronchi remained unbeaten on 170 off 99 balls and Elliot on 104 off 96.

With tables turned on them, Sri Lanka faced a massive victory target of 361 runs. However, at least the Sri Lanka opening pair of Lahiru Thirimanne and Tilakaratne Dilshan didn’t get overawed as they added 93 in 18.1 overs. After Thirimanne fell, the second-wicket stand also produced 48 runs. Dilshan played as he always does, though he lost Sangakkara. Sri Lanka added another 70 for the third-wicket with Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardane putting up stiff resistance. But they had consumed 36 overs by then and the victory became a distant dream. The match was clearly headed towards the New Zealand victory as 150 runs were needed from 14 overs. Just at this point, New Zealand hastened the end with some remarkable bowling performance from Trent Boult and Mitchell McClenagham. The last 8 Sri Lankan wickets fell for the addition of only 41 runs and New Zealand won the match by 108 runs.