Sri Lanka and New Zealand played in what can only be described as an epic encounter; a game that had all the ingredients to light up this T20 World Cup. After the scores were tied at the end of 20 overs, the game went into the super over where Sri Lanka finally held their nerve, something they failed to do during the game before the super over, and took their first game in the Super 8s. If there were any people in the World who felt that this tournament was getting a touch drab, they need not look any beyond this game. No one could’ve possibly asked for a better start to the Super 8s stage of the tournament. There were a lot of brilliant moments that defined this closely contested game. My attempt to keep this short is going to be nothing but a futile attempt. Such was the nature of the game.
Rob Nicol: A brilliant half century by Nicol at the top set the tone for the Kiwi innings. The Kiwis had a slow start and needed the batsmen to start scoring at a quicker rate before it was too late. Nicol took it to the Lankan attack and played a few magnificent strokes. This was also his career best score in this format of the game.
Akila Dananjaya: An 18-year old nets bowler impressed Mahela Jayawardene so much that he requested for him to be fast tracked to the national squad. He made his International debut today. Short and compactly built, Akila was deceptive to say the least. The youngster, who is equipped with a lot of variation in his bowling, repaid his captain’s faith when he dismissed Martin Guptill in the 8th over. The way he celebrated with Jayawardene was a brilliant sight. A few overs later while bowling to Rob Nicol, Dananjaya was hit hard on the face thanks to a straight back shot from Rob Nicol. It was a nasty blow. But Dananjaya came back and dismissed Rob Nicol in the 16th over.
Fastest 50 partnership: Chasing 175, the Lankans had their task cut out. The openers, Mahela Jayawardene and Tilakaratne Dilshan gave Lanka the perfect start in a chase like this. They scored constantly at more than 10 runs an over and brought up the fastest 50 run first wicket partnership of the tournament off just 25 deliveries.
Tilakaratne Dilshan: Despite a great start, the Lankans lost momentum mid way. After a breezy start, New Zealand began to claw their way back into the game. In such a situation, it was Dilshan’s innings of 76 from 53 deliveries that helped the home side take the game till the end.
Brendon MCCullum: Birthday boy Brendon McCullum had an on and off day in the game. Just when he was looking like he could play a big innings, he was caught at square leg for 25 runs off just 16 deliveries. On the field though, he was phenomenally sharp behind the stumps. The game had two run outs, the first one of Kumar Sangakkara. McCullum did exceptionally well to collect a wide throw and stretch out to dislodge the bails on time to send Sangakkara packing. Next was a crucial wicket of the danger man Tilakaratne Dilshan. It was a wonderful throw from the deep by Tim Southee and McCullum was sharp as ever to dismiss Dilshan who was only marginally short of his crease. McCullum’s job wasn’t done yet as he returned to bat in the super over but couldn’t help his side overcome a total of 14 runs in the over.
100th six: The game witnessed the 100th six of the tournament. It came from the bat of Tilakaratne Dilshan in the 19th over. Sri Lanka needed 21 off the last two overs as James Franklin came on to bowl. The first delivery he bowled was a full toss outside off that Dilshan picked rather brilliantly. The ball sailed over the midwicket fence and brought the focus back to Sri Lanka again.
The Penultimate over: In closely contested run chases, it’s the penultimate over that matters the most. Batsmen often tend to go after the bowling in this over in order to reduce the asking rate for the last over. When Franklin was hit for a huge six off the first ball in the 19th over, many would’ve back Sri Lanka to finish the game off with an over to spare. The next three balls gave New Zealand the all important wicket of Dilshan and only added 2 runs to the Sri Lankan total. The home side still needed 12 from 8 deliveries. A poor delivery followed and Thisera Perera swung his bat to get a top edge and the ball ran away to the third man boundary. 8 required off 7. Franklin could’ve adjusted his field, could’ve bowled a short one in a bid to surprise the batsman or even bowled one in the block hole in order not give away too many runs. But he backed himself and bowled a beauty-of-a-slower delivery and Perera was beaten and bowled! It was a wonderful wicket to end the 19th over with the Sri Lankans needing 8 off the last over.
Sensational Southee: Tim Southee has been absolutely sensational for the Kiwis. Ross Taylor gave him the responsibility of defending as few as 8 runs off the last 6 balls. Having gone for 37 runs off his 3 overs, Southee was a totally different bowler in that final over. He gave away 1 run each in the first three delivers and bowled a dot ball off the fourth ball. This meant Sri Lanka needed 5 runs off 2 deliveries. The next delivery was one that was a length delivery outside the off stump, but Thirimanne walked across and scooped it over the fine leg fielder who was standing up. Now the tables suddenly turned back to Sri Lanka’s favour as they needed just 1 run off the last ball. Even in a crunch situation like that, Southee kept his cool and kept the batsman on his backfoot which eventually resulted in a run-out and a tied core.
Last ball finish: So, the Lankans needed just 1 run off the last ball and on any other day this was going to be their game but today was destined to be different. Taylor brought all his fielders in and Southee bowled a short delivery. Thirimanne hit it to point and ran, the throw came in at the non-striker’s end where Ross Taylor was backing up. A simple collect would’ve done it but we were in for a lot more excitement. Taylor failed to collect the ball but the bails were dislodged. Replays showed that the throw ricocheted off Taylor’s hands and hit the wicket while Thirimanne was still short. How about that for a last ball finish?
Super Over: Tim Southee returned to bowl the super over and gave away just 13 runs despite bowling 2 wides, one which gave them an extra cheeky run. He kept a good line and length, not giving away a single boundary as Sri Lanka ended up with 13 runs. But Lasith Malinga did the job for Sri Lanka as he restricted the Kiwis to just 7 runs, despite some poor keeping by Sangakkara behind the stumps.