New Zealand vs Sri Lanka |Sunday 10 January | Eden Park, Auckland | 03:30
Grant Elliot was the hero for New Zealand as he successfully defended 13 runs from the final over of the first of two T20 Internationals in Mount Maunguani. Having already secured the Test and ODI legs of the bi-lateral series, New Zealand will want to close the series out with another win before they play host to Pakistan in three ODIs and a three T20 Internationals.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand are playing for their place atop the ICC World T20 rankings. Anything less than a win in the second and final T20 against New Zealand will result in the Asian islanders dropping below Australia and the West Indies.
To Win Match
New Zealand 5/10
Sri Lanka 16/10
Dominant batting displays from Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson ensured that New Zealand head into the second and final T20 International. The Black Caps lost the toss and were asked to bat by Dinesh Chandimal on a beautiful day at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.
Williamson and Guptill strode out into the middle and wasted no time in getting stuck into the Sri Lankan attack. Guptill played with his usual belligerent abandon. He struck his first boundary with an immaculate cut off the back foot off just the second ball of the day. He’d go on to carve through the covers before depositing the ball onto the bank over mid-wicket to claim 14 runs off the first over.
The Sri Lankans' bizarre tactics saw them employ four different bowlers in the first four overs, each one failing to keep Guptill quiet. By the end of the fourth over, he’d raced to 32 off just 13 balls. The remainder of the Powerplay saw Kane Williamson keep most of the strike, but the platform had already been laid.
With the fielding restrictions lifted, the runrate slowed somewhat with the two openers seemingly content to find gaps in the field and rotate the strike. Jeffery Vandersay bowled a gem of a spell to keep the scoring down – his three overs going for just 18 runs.
Guptill would claim his seventh T20 International 50 with a typically destructive shot over the long-on boundary. However, he would be back in the pavilion an over later after Williamson called him through for a quick single which was never on. The captain would also depart the scene shortly after Guptill - hauling out to the man on the midwicket boundary.
Colin Munro and Ross Taylor continued where Guptill left off adding valuable runs with a number of lusty blows before Munro was dismissed by Buwan Kulasekara. Grant Elliot came in next and his 10* off six deliveries helped his side to a competitive 182-4.
New Zealand took to the field in buoyant mood and tore through the Sri Lankans top order leaving the Lions wounded at 42-4 with Trent Boult and Matt Henry claiming two wickets apiece as they probed with testing lines and lengths.
After a bit of a revival thanks to the batting exploits of Danushka Gunathilka and Malinda Siriwardana, the visitors were back on course to claim victory. Ish Sodi would remove the former after he was sharply caught by Ross Taylor before Matt Henry claimed his third wicket of the day when he removed Thisara Perera. Boult would pick up the crucial wicket of Siriwardana two overs later, exposing the Sri Lankan tail.
Grant Elliot was forced to defend 13 from the last over with his rather tame medium pace after Williamson had bowled out all of his frontline seamers. The pressure would prove too much for the Sri Lankans, however, as they fell three runs short of the total.
After a bit of a lean run on their tour of Australia, Martin Guptill has come back into form in spectacular style. The Auckland native has been in fine form throughout Sri Lanka’s tour of New Zealand bludgeoning 615 runs in two Tests, four ODIs and one T20. These scores include four scores in excess of 50 and two sublime centuries.
If New Zealand are to win second and final T20 International against Sri Lanka, you can be sure that he’ll have a part to play. The rest of the top order look in good nick too, with Williamson, Ross Taylor and Colin Munro able to anchor the innings should Guptill fail. If they’re able to set a decent enough platform, guys like Corey Anderson, Grant Elliot and Luke Ronchi can launch in the middle and latter part of the innings.
On top of their immensely powerful batting line-up, the Black Caps boast one of the best seam attacks in world cricket at the moment. Trent Boult, Tim Southee (rested during the T20s), Matt Henry and Mitchell McClenaghan are all more than capable of mixing it up with the best batsmen in the world. Ish Sodhi and Nathan McCullum offer excellent spin options in the middle overs and can restrict opposition scoring.
They’re a formidable unit, and arguably one of the best in world T20 cricket at the moment. I fully expect them to breeze past the Sri Lankans in the final T20 of their tour.
The Sri Lankans are in a bit of a rebuilding phase at the moment. A young side with such a fine sprinkling of experience was never really going to trouble the New Zealanders. What’s important, however, is that they’re exposed to cricket at this level, especially when you consider how close we are to the World T20 Championships.
In Tillakaratne Dilshan, Angelo Matthews, Kusal Perera, Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara; they’ve got some of the most recognisable names in world T20 cricket. They also possess one of the most exciting young legspinners in the world at the minute, and another good performance against New Zealand will see his stock rise even further.
Danushka Gunathilaka is another one for the future, at just 24-years-old he’s put in a few solid performances with the bat in limited overs cricket. He still has a long way to go, but early signs suggest that he could well go on to make a name for himself.
Although I don’t think they’ll trouble New Zealand in the second T20 International – especially seeing as they’re without the services of Lasith Malinga – the Sri Lankan management have done well to blood a few new players, and they’re stronger for it heading into the World T20 in March later this year.
Verdict: Martin Guptill to top score for New Zealand at 9/4
Is there nothing this man can’t do with the bat at the moment? Probably not. He’s been absolutely unstoppable over the last month or so smashing 615 runs so far during Sri Lankas tour of New Zealand. He looks good value for money to top score for the Black Caps at 9/4.
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