Co-hosts New Zealand demonstrated their impressive credentials in the most emphatic way by completely outplaying Sri Lanka in Cup Opener at Christchurch’s Hagley Park on Saturday February 14, 2015. Put into bat by Sri Lankan captain, who won the toss, New Zealand began with their skipper Brendon McCullum leading from front. By 16th over, they were well past the century mark, when McCullum departed after setting a solid foundation. Every Kiwi batsman emulated their captain and contributed with sizeable scores. First it was Martin Guptill, then Kane Williamson and finally Corey Anderson with Luke Ronchi. These batsmen ensured that New Zealand score became so massive that Sri Lanka would find the chase too hot. Despite Sri Lankan bowlers applying pressure in later stages, New Zealand scored 331/6. Sri Lanka began promisingly until 124/1 in the 23rd over but the target was too big for their sustenance until the end, especially with the Kiwi bowlers pulling out one trick or another from their magical bag. The hosts looked the dominating side from start to finish and couldn’t have asked for a better way to begin their World Cup campaign. Sri Lanka lost by 98 runs. For his great batting performance followed by intelligent bowling, Anderson was aptly named player of the match.
Batting first, Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill put on a 111-run opening stand by 16th over. McCullum batted like his true explosive self and showed his intent in Lasith Malinga’s fourth over and the innings’ eighth. The Sri Lankan speedster had conceded 19 in his first three overs but McCullum took 22 runs off his fourth with 4 fours and a huge six. As New Zealand raced to 68/0, Mathews took off Malinga and brought Rangana Herath instead. This brought down the New Zealand assault somewhat. But McCullum was unstoppable as he raced to his 50 off 35 balls even as Guptill on the other end was content to play the second fiddle. 100 runs came in the 14th over. Just when Mathews had run out of ideas about dealing with McCullum, the big New- Zealander fell to a trap laid out by Herath in the 16th over. McCullum stepped out to clear the ropes but the skier was nicely held by Jeevan Mendis at long-off, inches inside the boundary. As McCullum walked out, he received a standing ovation for the glorious start to New Zealand’s World Cup campaign. Sri Lanka’s fourth change bowler, Suranga Lakmal looked impressive and early in Kane Williamson’s innings, Lakmal found the edge of his bat but Sangakkara dropped him. Sangakkara, however made amends, when he pouched Martin Guptill 6 overs later in identical circumstances. Williamson also escaped a caught-and-bowled chance against Herath and evaded Mathews, when on 27. Riding on these lives, Williamson went on to score 57 before he fell in the 34th over from Mendis with Taylor following him in the same over.
Fall of two quick wickets slowed down New Zealand as Corey Anderson and Grant Elliott played with caution. They took 33 from batting Power-play with New Zealand reaching 229/4 after 40 overs. When Elliott fell in the 44th over, Sri Lanka had a chance to restrict New Zealand from crossing 300. Unfortunately, Jeevan Mendis dropped a sitter, when Anderson miscued a shot. Unruffled, Anderson continued with the adventurous Luke Ronchi, who stepped up the scoring rate. These two added 50 off 27 balls and New Zealand finished with a very creditable 331/6.
Coming in to chase 332 for victory, Sri Lanka began solidly, putting on 67 for the first wicket by 13th over. After Tilakaratne Dilshan fell to the guile of Daniel Vettori, Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne continued the chase. Thirimanne was 65 off 59, when Trent Boult bowled him with a super out-swinger. In the next over, Boult trapped Sangkkara LBW with an in-swinger and Sri Lanka were in trouble. When a beauty from Daniel Vettori accounted for the veteran Mahela Jayawardene, it looked like curtains for Sri Lanka. From 124 for 1 in the 22nd over, Sri Lanka slipped to 129 for 4. Angelo Mathews watched in pain as wickets kept tumbling at the other end. The fight had already gone out of Sri Lanka and when Mathews got out in the 42nd over from Tim Southee, who also accounted for Malinga in the same over; it was just a matter of time. From a promising start, Sri Lankan innings folded at 233 all out with 23 balls still remaining. They lost the match by 98 runs.
It was a great beginning for New Zealand, who many analysts rate as the side to reckon with in this World Cup. They did nothing wrong and showed their expertise in every department of the game. McCullum led from start and Anderson and Ronchi duly complemented him in the end. Lasith Malinga was returning to ODI after a long lay-off and it showed in his performance as he conceded 84 in 10 overs. His new-ball partner Nuwan Kulasekara was worse in giving away 78 off 8. But the game had the stamp of New Zealand’s superiority that the Sri Lankans found difficult to match.