TAURANGA: Jimmy Neesham made a dream return to international cricket Thursday, crushing Sri Lanka with bat and ball as New Zealand won the opening one-day international by 45 runs in Tauranga.
Neesham, recalled after 18 months in the wilderness as New Zealand look to trial all-rounder options before the World Cup, flayed the Sri Lankan bowling with an unbeaten 47 off just 13 deliveries.
Neesham cracked five sixes in Thisara Perera’s 49th over en route to an unbeaten 47 from 13 balls as the hosts blazed 49 runs from the final two overs to post 371-7.
He then took three for 38 to share the spotlight with man-of-the-match Martin Guptill who set the New Zealand innings alight with 138 off 139 deliveries.
On a placid wicket favouring the batsman and on a ground with short boundaries, Kusal Perera also reached three figures with 102 for Sri Lanka while Niroshan Dickwella added 76.
But in reply to New Zealand’s 371 for seven, Sri Lanka were all out for 326 with six balls remaining.
Free-scoring Sri Lankan openers Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka had been on track to chase down the target when they reached 119 off 17 overs.
But when Neesham came into the attack he had Gunathilaka caught behind for 43 and Dickwella bowled in the space of four deliveries.
Kusal Mendis and Perera smacked 52 off 50 deliveries until an Ish Sodhi googly removed Mendis for 18.
Neesham returned for his second spell to dismiss Dinesh Chandimal for 10, before more success for spinner Sodhi who had Asela Gunaratne caught in the deep for 11.
Trent Boult eventually dismissed the stubborn Perera as Sri Lanka’s last five wickets fell for 53 runs.
New Zealand had elected to bat first and after the early loss of Colin Munro, Guptill and Kane Williamson put on 163 for the second wicket.
Guptill cracked five sixes and 11 fours to celebrate his return to the New Zealand side with his 14th ODI century in his 160th match, becoming the ninth-fastest player to pass 6,000 runs in the format.
After Williamson was bowled by Nuwan Pradeep for 76, Ross Taylor added a quick 54 off 37 balls before Neesham´s closing salvo.
On a day not made for bowlers, Pradeep returned the best figures for Sri Lanka with two for 72.
The second match in the three-match series is in Tauranga on Saturday.
How it unfolded?
In his first international match since June 2017, allrounder James Neesham blitzed Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera for five sixes in an over. He couldn’t make it six in a row, but his unbeaten 47 off 13 balls launched New Zealand to 371 for 7 in Mount Maunganui.
48.1 NLTC Perera to Neesham, SIX runs, in the slot and bang, a rare bad ball by Thisara, perfectly in Neesham’s arc. He picks it up from off and sends it flat over cow corner
48.2 NLTC Perera to Neesham, SIX runs, similar ball, same result, he’s losing his length and line against the left-hander, been so good to the right-handers. In the slot again and Neesham sends it exactly over the same spot at cow corner for another six
48.3 NLTC Perera to Neesham, SIX runs, Neesham’s on fire Thisara goes straighter, but still doesn’t get the line right. Too full, and Neesham clears his leg to swat it back over the bowler’s head and into the sight-screen
48.4 NLTC Perera to Neesham, SIX runs, ho ho ho, who says Christmas is over Thisara is losing the plot. Full toss outside off that time and Neesham clobbers it over cow corner once again.
48.5 NLTC Perera to Neesham, (no ball) 2 runs, full toss and no-ball for being above waist height There’s a free hit coming up, and New Zealand have 27 runs off the first four balls! That was outside off, and Neesham swung hard at it, but it went only to mid-off
48.5 NLTC Perera to Neesham, SIX runs, good god, someone give Thisara some brandy or something to recover too full again and Neesham can’t put a foot wrong. That’s gone on the roof. I miss Tony Greig on air, who would have done justice to a ball going on the roof and a fifth six off five legal balls in the over. Amazing. Incredible
Long discussion between Malinga, and the bowler. Can he prevent a sixth six?
48.6 NLTC Perera to Neesham, 1 run, no six sixes. managed to not get it quite as that full ‘in the arc, out of the park’ length. Neesham still smashed it, but didn’t get the elevation. sends it flat to midwicket, but the good news is, he’s retained the strike
Here’s the video: