Image courtesy of: StarSports
It’s a bird…It’s a plane…No it’s Brendon McCullum
The sun was shining and the weather was sweet as New Zealand and Sri Lanka walked out onto the pitch at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff.
This match promised to be a thriller right from the start as there was nothing separating the teams from taking the two points up for grabs.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews won the toss and had no hesitation in batting first as it was a glorious day, with the pitch completely bathed in the golden glow of the sun.
However, dark clouds must have started forming on the horizon of Mathews’ mind right after the first ball of the innings as opener Kusal Perera was dismissed after New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum pulled off a video game-like catch at second slip.
Things went from bad to worse for Sri Lanka as Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Dinesh Chandimal were all dismissed in quick succession to leave the scoreboard reading 34/4 when Mathews strolled out to the wicket.
There must have been a full-blown hurricane going on in Mathews’ mind as he joined Kumar Sangakkara at the crease, but those early jitters of losing another wicket temporarily subsided as Mathews and Sangakkara put together a 31-run partnership before the skipper himself was clean bowled by pace bowler Mitchell McClenaghan after walking too far across his stumps.
Mathews and the rest of the dismissed batsmen could only watch as the wickets continued to tumble one after another.
All-rounder Thisara Perera and Sangakkara registered another 31-run partnership, during which the wicketkeeper brought up his half-century.
However, both batsmen were dismissed in quick succession before McClenaghan and Nathan McCullum swooped in to mop up the tailenders.
Sri Lanka were bowled out for a dismal 138, with Sangakarra making 68 of those runs.
McClenaghan was the pick of the New Zealand bowlers, taking four wickets, while Kyle Mills and McCullum each picked up two wickets apiece and the returning Daniel Vettori also claimed a wicket as well.
Chasing a relatively simple target of 139 to win, New Zealand were immediately put on the back foot by Sri Lanka’s pace attack.
It was only a matter of time before one of the seamers struck and it was Shaminda Eranga who provided the breakthrough for Sri Lanka, cleaning up Luke Ronchi for seven.
Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill put together, what proved to be, a vital 34-run partnership before Williamson was given out lbw off the bowling of Lasith Malinga.
Williamson’s wicket started a domino effect as New Zealand lost Guptill and Ross Taylor in the space of two balls.
James Franklin and Brendon McCullum put together a quick 21-run partnership before Franklin was dismissed by Dilshan.
At this point New Zealand looked doubtful of even reaching 100 runs.
However, a 35-run partnership between the McCullum brothers inched them closer to their target before Malinga returned with a vengeance, claiming three wickets to dent New Zealand’s hopes of winning the match.
Despite Mills being run out towards the end as well, the Blackcaps were able to get over the line, thanks to a sensible innings by Tim Southee, who finished unbeaten on 13 off 21 balls.
Malinga absolutely ripped apart the New Zealand batting line-up, taking four wickets, while Eranga finished with two and Rangana Herath and Dilshan added a wicket each.
Nathan McCullum was announced the Man of the Match for his 32 runs and two wickets.