Bengaluru: ‘Rain poses the biggest threat’ was the pre-match warning ahead of New Zealand’s final league game which held key to their survival at the World Cup.
Rain was predicted but fortunately for the Kiwis, the sun was out with clear skies throughout, allowing Kane Williamson’s men to unleash their plans without any unwanted intervention for a five-wicket win.
After bowling out Sri Lanka for 171, the left-handed opening duo of Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra were cruising on a pitch that allowed them to essay good-looking shots all over the small outfield with about 17,500 crowd in attendance.
At 86 for 0 in 12.1 overs, when the openers looked like they were in the mood to finish things off for the Kiwis, New Zealand suffered two quick setbacks. First it was Conway (45 runs) who threw his wicket away by hitting it straight to Dhananjaya de Silva at mid-wicket off Dushmantha Chameera. Rachin (42) followed his partner seven balls later when his attempted slog sweep on the rise was caught by de Silva at mid-on.
The chase was never a daunting one for panic to set in. So it was left to the rest to close it out even if it came with a few more casualties such as skipper Kane Williamson’s inside-edge knocking-off the stumps or Mark Chapman walking back fuming after a needless run out.
However, with Daryl Mitchell producing 43 off 31 balls, Glenn Phillips and Tom Latham took their team across the line with a little over 26 overs remaining.
With the batting department making all the noise in their campaign, the focus was always on their bowling unit to come together in a crucial tie. And impress they did with Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson and Mitchell Santner combining well to decimate a majority of the Lankan batting line-up before getting troubled by a wagging tail.
After Boult opened with a maiden over, Southee removed in-form batter Pathum Nissanka in the second over for two runs. Captain Kusal Mendis was the next to be sent back to the pavilion by Boult for just six runs.
With the foundation looking shaky, opener Kusal Perera – who was dropped by keeper Tom Latham in the second over – managed to reach his half-century. But just when it looked like the 33-year-old was successfully dodging the trio of attacking pacers, he miss-timed a Ferguson fuller that went high in the air to land safely in the hands of Santner at covers.
With the sun still out, almost an hour’s play done and 10 overs bowled, the Sri Lankan scoreboard read 74/5. From here on, it became more about how long the battered Lankan tigers would hold fort before the inevitable.
A 10th-wicket stand between Maheesh Theekshana andDilshan Madushanka turned out to be the highest partnership of 43 runs made in 14.3 overs before local favourite Ravindra removed the latter.
Is this effort enough to see New Zealand through to the semifinals? The Pakistan-England clash will decide that.
(Published 09 November 2023, 14:53 IST)