MOUNT MAUNGANUI: A rollicking maiden century by Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera was ultimately in vain as New Zealand wrapped up the one-day series with a 21-run victory in the second ODI at Mount Maunganui.
With Sri Lanka chasing New Zealand’s 319 for seven, they were on the ropes at 128 for seven when Perera opened up.
He faced 74 deliveries and cracked 13 sixes and eight fours before he was the last wicket to fall and Sri Lanka were out for 298 with 22 balls remaining.
Sri Lanka reached 112 for two when Ish Sodhi captured the wicket of Kusal Mendis for 20 to trigger a collapse which saw five wickets fall in six overs.
But Perera refused to give up as he bludgeoned the New Zealand attack with brute force.
He made 58 in a 75-run stand with Lasith Malinga for the eighth wicket and scored 45 of the 51 runs for the ninth wicket with Lakshan Sandakan.
But when a seemingly impossible victory seemed on the cards Matt Henry had Perera caught by Trent Boult at long-on.
Opener Danushka Gunathilaka played his part at the top of the order with 71 but elsewhere the Sri Lankan batsmen failed to fire.
When New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat, Sri Lanka had their tails up when they removed first-match centurion Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson cheaply to have New Zealand at 39 for two.
But Ross Taylor (90)and Colin Munro (87) swung momentum New Zealand’s way with a 112-run stand for the third wicket, while all-rounder James Neesham lit up the tail with a whirlwind 64.
Lasith Malinga was the pick of Sri Lankan bowlers with two for 45 while bowling for New Zealand Sodhi took three for 55.
Colin Munro’s 87 equalled the left-hander’s best ODI score and could have been much more, if not for a run-out mix-up with Ross Taylor in the 26th over.
New Zealand also got strong contributions with the bat from Taylor (90) and Jimmy Neesham (64 from 37 balls).
Chasing another stiff target, Sri Lanka faltered as legspinner Ish Sodhi snared 3-55 off his full complement of 10 overs.
Sodhi found a marvellous rhythm, hitting a sweet length and line and his figures were only spoiled by some late hitting from all-rounder Perera when all seemed lost for Sri Lanka.
He reached his maiden ODI ton off only 57 balls and wasn’t finished by any means. He struck 13 sixes and eight fours in a magnificent display of clean hitting.
There was an early bounce about New Zealand’s display with the ball and in the field. We witnessed a plethora of low-fives and bum slaps whenever an excellent diving stop or a string of dot balls was produced as they looked a happy camp, but they blotted their copybook awfully with some glaring late dropsies.
Skipper Kane Williamson surprised all by introducing himself to the bowling crease in the 11th over of Sri Lanka’s reply and it should have proved a masterstroke.
However, a short wide one first up that was cut aerially by Danushka Gunathilaka was dropped at backward point by Henry Nicholls.
Kusal Perera, who looked a million dollars on Thursday night, resembled a long-gone two cent piece on Saturday before departing to Matt Henry for four off 23 balls.
Sodhi pegged back the Sri Lankan scoring rate initially and then further hindered the chance of a visiting victory when he and wicketkeeper Tim Seifert combined to remove the dangerous Kusal Mendis and when opener Gunathilaka (71 off 73 balls) departed in the following over to Neesham, the fans could have been excused for trying to beat the traffic.
When Chandimal failed to pick Sodhi’s wrong ‘un, the game seemed over as a contest after 25 overs of Sri Lanka’s pursuit.
Perera to Southee 6 6 0 6 6 0:
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Despite Williamson’s protestations, most fans – and likely the players – see the three-game series against Sri Lanka, and the ODI matches to come against India and Bangladesh, as trials for the Black Caps squad selection for the World Cup starting in England at the end of May.
Munro, among the batsmen, needed a score most. When he reached his half-century, it was the first time he’d achieved that mark in 11 ODI innings. When he went past 59, it was his highest score in 17 ODI innings, going back to India in October 2017.
Sri Lanka had used seven bowlers by the 23rd over to try and restrict a New Zealand side which made 371-7 batting first on Thursday. A bikini-waxed outfield – appropriate for a holiday beach resort – virtually guaranteed that any shot that beat the inner circle fielder raced away for a boundary.
Sixteen balls later, the hosts were rocked when Williamson top-edged a hook off Nuwan Pradeep and Lakshan Sandakan took the catch at long leg, tossing it up to himself as he stepped back over the boundary.
But Munro and Taylor added 112 for the third wicket in 18 overs to again register a total that again proved beyond Sri Lanka under lights.
The third and final ODI is in Nelson on Tuesday, with Sri Lanka’s tour ending with a Twenty20 match at Auckland’s Eden Park on Friday.
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