NELSON: Sri Lanka won the toss and had made three changes to their side, but despite their best efforts, a familiar sequence of events unfolded in Nelson. New Zealand lost early wickets but recovered emphatically, Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls hitting fine hundreds, while Kane Williamson made an effortless half-century. Sri Lanka failed to take wickets through the middle overs again, which allowed New Zealand to float into the final 10 overs with 234 for 3 on the board, before plundering 130 further runs to finish at 364 for 4.
The visitors’ reply then began gallantly, the openers hurtling to a half-century stand, and the 100 coming off just 86 balls, before a clutch of wickets fell, and the innings flatlined as the middle overs began. Niroshan Dickwella had produced the rocket-powered start, and Thisara Perera was on hand to tonk a valiant 80 off 63, but for the majority of their innings, Sri Lanka did not have the measure of the mammoth target. They fell 115 runs short, leaving 8.2 overs unused.
New Zealand swept the series 3-0, perhaps saving their best batting effort for last. Sri Lanka, whose attack continues to ail, no matter which bowlers are playing or how many, are yet to win a match on tour.
Taylor, for who had come into this match with five consecutive fifty-plus scores behind him, cracked 137 off 131 to raise New Zealand from 31 for 2, to a position of outright command in the match. He was involved in two century stands that formed the body of this New Zealand innings. With Williamson, he put on 116 off 130 balls, before Nicholls joined him for a partnership worth 154 off 120.
He had begun with a little fortune, almost run out within minutes of arriving at the crease (he would have been on his way had Thisara hit the stumps), before nearly chopping the ball back onto his stumps in the next over. He was strong square of the wicket as usual, while Williamson prospered down the ground. Taylor’s first few boundaries came on the legside, as Sri Lanka continued to bowl into his pads, but he would later unfurl that punishing cut shot as well. He got to his 20th hundred off the 112th ball he faced, by which time the slog overs had arrived, and Taylor found himself in a position to surge. He took an especial liking to the bowling of Lasith Malinga, hoisting him for four sixes in the arc between long on and midwicket between the 41st and 45th overs. He was eventually out trying to hit Malinga for a fifth six, ending up only pulling him into the hands of deep square leg.
Sri Lanka had hoped Dushmantha Chameera would help take wickets through the middle overs, but unable to find much movement from the pitch, he proved to be ineffective, with Lakshan Sandakan also proving largely modest through that period. The bowling effort was not helped though, by the fact that the two most experienced bowlers often missed their lengths at the death. Between them, Malinga and Pradeep gave away 170 runs off 114 balls.
They did, however, produce another bright start with the bat – Dhananjaya de Silva opening alongside Dickwella, after regular opener Danushka Gunathilaka went off the field with a stiff back halfway through New Zealand’s innings. They raced to 66 at the end of the first eight overs before de Silva was trapped lbw by Tim Southee. It was at Dickwella’s demise for 46, however, that the innings hit a wall. Kusal Mendis was run out without facing a ball (not without mild controversy – the replays did not seem to definitively show that his bat had not crossed the crease), Dasun Shanaka was lbw to Ish Sodhi after missing a sweep, and Kusal Perera was caught behind – all this happening in relatively quick succession, which meant that Sri Lanka slipped from 107 for 1 to 143 for 5.