Going into the fifth and final ODI of the series against New Zealand, Sri Lanka did not have a chance of winning the series as one game was washed out. With the scoreline reading 2-1 though, they were still in with an opportunity of squaring the series. Having been battered in the Tests, they would have been keen to do better in the one-dayers. And, the Lankans would have been confident of putting up a good show after the comprehensive triumph over the otherwise dominant hosts in the third match. But, they failed to bring out their best game at the Bay Oval, and ended up losing the ODI series as well.
Like in the third match, the Lankans were again chasing a big score to square the series. Once again, they needed their top order to fire. But, the top three failed, and as a result Sri Lanka fell back in the game very early on. In the third ODI at Nelson, Danushka Gunathilaka, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Lahiru Thirimanne all starred and played varied roles to take the team to victory. While Gunathilaka provided the early impetus, Dilshan held the innings together before Thirimanne saw them through. Lanka needed something similar. Instead they crumbled to 33 for 3, and fell way behind.
To their credit, Sri Lanka fought back well courtesy a measured innings from skipper Angelo Mathews and a well-compiled half-century from Dinesh Chandimal. But, neither could see the team through as they fell to the asking run rate, and in the end did not have enough wickets in hand. Chandimal batted well, but should have carried on after 50. Milinda Siriwanda supported his skipper admirably. He too though fell against the run of play. Had he stayed on, Mathews could have taken fewer risks. The captain too eventually perished to the short ball, five short of a hundred.
While it is true that three early wickets put New Zealand ahead in the chase, the three-wicket burst by Matt Henry towards the end of Sri Lanka’s innings was equally significant. He dismissed Chamara Kapugedera, Mathews and Dusmantha Chameera in quick succession as a promising chase faltered away. At one stage, Sri Lanka required 58 from 40 runs, and had Mathews found an able partner, the target was pretty much gettable. But, Henry’s strikes put New Zealand way ahead, and wickets from Mitchell Santner and Trent Boult also aided the team’s cause, as the hosts marched on.
Earlier in the day, New Zealand’s batting was again commendable. Martin Guptill continued his great form adding another century to his kitty. But, he displayed his versatility by not going all-out, and stitching together a patient hundred. Guptill was well supported in his endeavour to take New Zealand closer to 300 by captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, both of whom made identical scores of 61. Luke Ronchi, who was desperate for a decent score, and Santner also chipped in with key cameos. And, although the Kiwis fell short of 300, their bowlers ensured it was more than enough.
--By A Cricket Analyst