New Zealand lost their captain without any score against Sri Lanka in the sixth ODI at Dunedin and in the 14th over, lost the other opener as well when the score reached 59. The Lankans were elated and they applied pressure. But Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor settled down to thwart Sri Lanka attack and produced a 117-run partnership that was the hallmark of the New Zealand innings. With Corey Anderson and Grant Elliot chipping in with acceleration later, the New Zealand innings crossed 300. On the Dunedin pitch, chasing 300+ wasn’t easy as Sri Lanka discovered. In the end, the Islanders fell short by 120 runs and New Zealand wrapped up the series 4-1 with one more match on January 29 at Wellington. The result of this match will be inconsequential now. Sri Lanka has not had a good New Zealand tour so far. Except the second ODI at Hamilton, they have lost everything despite some spirited individual performances. It is not that they have not tried but Kiwis have come up with something better almost everytime.
On January 25, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum won the toss and decided to bat. Since his whirlwind 195 off 134 balls in the first test at Christchurch, McCullum has not produced any other score of note. On Sunday, he faced just two balls from Dhammika Prasad and on the second, he tried a might heave over long off. So early in the innings, it wasn’t expected that a seasoned player like McCullum would charge down the track and try lifting a speedster out of the ground. But the ball went miles up in the sky before Thisara Perera ran backwards to hold a great catch despite losing his balance and falling. The scoreboard was blank at this point. Kane Williamson joined Martin Guptill and the two batsmen played steadily to add 58 for the second wicket before Guptill was caught behind to an inside edge off a delivery from Thisara Perera. The New Zealand innings changed after that.
Ross Taylor joined Williamson and the two batsmen began scoring at will. Williamson was dropped by Tilakaratne Dilshan, when at 27. The batsman couldn’t keep his shot down to a ball from Rangana Herath and Dilshan floored a regulation catch that Sri Lanka would come to rue later. After that, Williamson played forcefully and flawlessly to reach his half century off 60 balls. With admirable support from Ross Taylor, Williamson added 117 invaluable runs for New Zealand for the third wicket before he was run out at 97 in trying to attempt two runs without Taylor being aware of that. It was a sad way to go after such industrious attempt in building the innings. Next man Corey Anderson got on the job of accelerating the pace straightaway. With Taylor well-settled, the two batsmen added 78 for the fourth wicket, when Anderson got out. New Zealand were solidly placed at 254/4. The later order batsmen also came up with short cameos and New Zealand finished at an extremely challenging 315/8.
Having to chase 316 for victory, Sri Lanka began quite well with Tilakaratne Dilshan and Lahiru Thirimanne providing a 56-run opening stand. But the two openers departed in quick succession by the 14th over. Though Mahela Jayawardane also couldn’t last long, Kumara Sangakkara and Dimuth Karunaratne forked out a useful 64-run stand that took the score to 146/4. But there was a drop in the required run rate as Sri Lanka approached the 30th over. As soon as Karunaratne got out, Sanga kept running out of partners with three wickets falling as run-outs alone. The writing on the wall was crystal clear now as Sanga also perished after scoring a creditable 81 off 66 balls. That was 189/8 and after the addition of another 6 runs, the Sri Lankas were all out, giving New Zealand a deserved 120-run victory.
New Zealand won the series 4-1 with one ODI game left. As for Sri Lanka, they came to New Zealand to acclimatize and condition themselves for the World Cup. But with just one victory in the 7-match series, it seems their World Cup plans have run into hot water. Their bowling failed to penetrate beyond early overs, they had fielding mishaps and there was nothing in their batting to talk about.