Red-hot Taylor, Nicholls lead New Zealand to series sweep
Ross Taylor celebrated another milestone and Henry Nicholls posted an unbeaten century as New Zealand sealed a 3-0 one-day international series sweep over Sri Lanka.
Taylor equalled New Zealand's record of six successive ODI half-centuries and became the country's first player to score 20 hundreds in the 50-over format in Tuesday's 115-run victory against the tourists.
The red-hot batsman – who was named man-of-the-match – produced a 137-run knock in the third and final clash at Saxton Oval, where Nicholls added 124 not out for his maiden ODI ton as New Zealand posted a daunting total of 364-4.
Sri Lanka started brightly via Niroshan Dickwella (46), Dhananjaya de Silva (36) and Kusal Perera (43) but another middle-order collapse dented their hopes after losing 36-4, as Lockie Ferguson (4-40) and Ish Sodhi (3-40) wreaked havoc to dismiss the visitors for 249 in the 42nd over, despite Thisara Perera's 80.
The Black Caps recovered from a slow start, which saw the hosts slump to 31-2 after Lasith Malinga (3-93) tore through opening pair Martin Guptill (2) and Colin Munro (21) within two overs following Sri Lanka's decision to field in Nelson.
Kane Williamson (55) and Taylor capitalised on some loose bowling from the Sri Lankans, the New Zealand captain posting a 56-ball fifty while the latter also moved past the half-century mark as the duo were involved in their 12th hundred partnership – 116 off 130 deliveries to be exact.
Ross Taylor brings up his 20th ODI century!— ICC (@ICC) January 8, 2019
What incredible form he is in - since the start of 2018, his average in ODIs is 98, second only to Virat Kohli! 😳#NZvSL LIVE 👇https://t.co/kXKrokDfaP pic.twitter.com/A3G7mha20O
Dushmantha Chameera (0-55) and Nuwan Pradeep (0-77) were wayward with their lines as the pressure mounted on Sri Lanka, until Lakshan Sandakan (1-54) tempted Williamson into a slog-sweep to reduce the Kiwis to 147-3.
Williamson's departure did little to stop New Zealand – Taylor and Nicholls taking centre stage with 154 runs off 120 balls against a Sri Lanka attack without any answers.
Taylor – who almost ran himself out second ball attempting a quick single before nearly playing Pradeep back on to his stumps – was immovable at the crease en route to his third century from his last eight innings.
Once he raised his bat, Taylor unleashed by hitting all four of his sixes post-100 and when he was removed by Malinga in the 47th over, Nicholls – a 71-ball centurion – continued the job for New Zealand, who smashed 130 runs for the loss of only Taylor in the final 10 overs.