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ICC Champions Trophy 2013 – NZ vs SL: New Zealand Survive Malinga Magic In Thriller

By on June 9, 2013

ICC Champions Trophy 2013 - NZ vs SL: Nathan McCullumNew Zealand 139 for 9 (N McCullum 32, Malinga 4-34) beat Sri Lanka 138 (Sangakkara 68, McClenaghan 4-43, Mills 2-14) by 1 wicket…

Lasith Malinga took the 22 yards out of the equation in a low-scoring thriller, but New Zealand survived him to register their first win over Sri Lanka in four years. The pitch has hardly ever mattered less. It was flat, the sun was out, the ball was not swinging, but Malinga’s dipping slower full tosses had New Zealand batsmen hopping and hoping in what was expected to be an afternoon stroll. Nathan McCullum, first, and then Tim Southee batted with just the maturity New Zealand desperately needed to see them through with one wicket in hand.

The chase swung dramatically. From coasting at 48 for 1 New Zealand stumbled to 49 for 4. From 70 for 4 they fell to 80 for 6, but then, crucially, they were allowed to get away with a relatively quieter phase when Malinga was taken off and brought back only after the McCullum brothers had taken off 31 off the requirement. Malinga came back and seemed like he could strike with every ball, but Sri Lanka will be left asking themselves – especially because Malinga brought them so close – if they had kept Malinga’s four overs back for too long.

DRS, or the way it was used by the sides, made its presence felt too. Kane Williamson wasted New Zealand’s review by asking for a replay when he was caught dead plumb by a thigh-high dipping full toss. Daniel Vettori later copped a rough one when he had hit another similar full toss into his pad. Sri Lanka had exhausted their early in the innings, and had to do with two not-outs towards the end that they could have got overturned on replay.

Amid loud unending appeals almost every ball, it was supreme drama with the balls remaining taken out of the equation: New Zealand still won with 13.3 overs to spare and took a bigger net-run-rate boost than England did in their facile win over Australia.

Going by how they went either side of the lunch break – their chase began early because they had bowled Sri Lanka out in 2 hours and 55 minutes – New Zealand should have finished it much earlier. It was all going swimmingly for them until Malinga got Williamson in the eighth over. In the next couple of overs, Rangana Herath and Shaminda Eranga – preferred to Sachithra Senanayake and Nuwan Kulasekara – struck. Herath trapping Ross Taylor with one that went on with the arm, and Eranga got one to bounce from short of a length outside off, taking the edge from Martin Guptill, who had raced away to 25 from 24.

Still it should have been easy for New Zealand, but they fumbled further to spin. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Herath almost cut out all singles, and Dilshan got James Franklin with the right-arm spinner’s version of the earlier Taylor dismissal. Sri Lanka were now sensing room for a miracle here, and brought Malinga back for his sixth over. On cue he struck, but Vettori could not get the obvious howler overturned because his team-mate had earlier challenged a call he was merely not sure about.

Strangely, though, Malinga was taken off immediately after he took Vettori’s wicket. When he was brought back, New Zealand had reached 111 for 6, needing only a further 28. Both Brendon McCullum and Nathan McCullum were allowed to take the singles, and they did so. It did involve a thin edge from N McCullum in the 28th over when the score read 100, but only the keeper heard it. Even the bowler Eranga hardly appealed. Did the excessive appealing leading up to that – Sri Lanka had been spoken to at the end of the 21st over – they have any part to play in that decision? We will never know

It is down to Malinga’s genius, though, that he came back and immediately took B McCullum out with another one of his loopy, alarmingly dipping full tosses. B McCullum played all across it, and the ball reached the off stump on a half-volley. New Zealand now needed 24 runs with three wickets in hand. Quite clearly, it was Malinga v New Zealand, and you wonder if it would have been different if it had been 44 runs to play with, and not 24.

Malinga, however, kept producing the magic. In his next over, he took out the other McCullum, who had wizened up to the slower ball, with a quick inswinging yorker. New Zealand still had 17 to get, and Malinga had 2.4 overs to go. The next four balls were a slower yorker, quick yorker, slower length ball, and another slower yorker. This was insanely good bowling, and Tim Southee and Kyle Mills somehow survived. As they did the next over, from Herath.

Malinga now had 12 balls to bowl, and 11 runs to defend. He began the 34th over with a quick inswinging length ball, which was only slipping leg, and the umpire Rod Tucker ruled not out. He had ruled N McCullum out on a similar delivery, and under DRS both decisions stand. However, the next one would have been changed by DRS. It hit Southee on the toe, went to the third-man boundary for four, but Tucker called it runs. It was a huge moment in the game. Not only did New Zealand not lose Southee, the target was now down to eight.

Much chatter went on. The players had to be separated at the end of the over. Southee was not losing his cool, though. The same couldn’t be said of Mills. Southee dug one out towards mid-on in the next over, and took the fielder on. Thisara Perera missed the stumps at the non-striker’s end narrowly, but he was lucky the ball went to hit the other set of stumps. Mills, though, was not desperate to make it, and was caught short. New Zealand still needed five, and Malinga had one over to go.

For once, Malinga made a mistake. He began his final over with an attempted yorker that went down the leg side. Southee cautiously played out the rest of the over. Don’t bother about whether the No. 11 will be on strike for the next over. Just see Malinga off.

Sri Lanka now made another interesting choice. Dilshan was given the ball. You could see why. Mitchell McClenaghan, a left-hand batsman, was on strike. He could get the lbw with the straighter one. But forget short leg for the inside edge, there was no man catching. And New Zealand needed only four. They were granted two easy singles, followed by a wide down the leg side, which also went for a bye. McLenaghan was nearly run out taking the second because they were not sure of the wide, but the end finally was a little insipid.

There was nothing insipid about New Zealand’s effort in the field. Sri Lanka had gone with just three strike bowlers, but New Zealand replaced the injured allrounder, Gran Elliot, with a bowler, Vettori. You can imagine a few captains sitting back and allowing easy singles once the early wickets were taken, but there were no soft partnerships here. If you wanted to score runs, you either played exceptional shots or took risks. The risks brought New Zealand timely wickets.

It all began when B McCullum went parallel to the ground at second slip to send back Kusal Perera with the first ball of the match. All other New Zealand signs were there. Mills struck his usual early blows, Vettori – the first spinner to bowl inside the mandatory Powerplay in this tournament – took a wicket in his first ODI over since the 2011 World Cup, and McClenaghan kept cutting partnerships short. McCullum chipped in too, there was a run-out, and Sri Lanka were bowled out in the 38th over.

Kumar Sangakkara was one of three batsmen to reach double figures, but the only one to go past 20. He looked a cut above every other batsman on the day, but looking for quick runs he sliced an N McCullum offbreak to backward point. Sangakkara knew knocking around wouldn’t help, and had been taking risks for a while now. This one didn’t come off, though. As didn’t the move to bowl Dilshan without wicket-taking intent in what proved to be the final over of the match.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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