Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
New Zealand wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi and batsman Grant Elliott broke the record for the highest sixth-wicket partnership in ODI history as the Blackcaps flattened Sri Lanka by 108 runs in the fifth ODI in Dunedin.
However, Sri Lanka opener Tillakaratne Dilshan deserves a lot of credit for his valiant knock of 116.
Sri Lanka stand-in captain Lahiru Thirimanne would have been delighted with his decision to bowl first since New Zealand opener Martin Guptill was caught behind off the bowling of Nuwan Kulasekara off the very first ball of the match.
New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson made up for the early loss of Guptill with a 51-run partnership before McCullum was given out lbw off the bowling of Kulasekara for 25.
McCullum decided to review the decision, but replays showed that the ball was pitching in line and going on to hit leg stump. This led to the third umpire upholding the original decision.
Following McCullum’s dismissal, Williamson, Ross Taylor and Corey Anderson were all bundled out in quick succession.
However, it was at this point in time where Ronchi and Elliott took over as the duo amassed a record-breaking 267-run partnership, during which Elliott brought up his second ODI century and Ronchi his first, to lead New Zealand to 360/5 off their 50 overs.
Ronchi finished on a career-best 170 off 99 balls, which included 14 boundaries and nine sixes, while Elliott remained undefeated on 104 off 96 deliveries, which included seven boundaries and two sixes.
Kulasekara and Thirimanne picked up two wickets apiece, while Thisara Perera chipped in with one.
Chasing a mammoth target of 361 to win, Sri Lanka got off to an excellent start as Dilshan and Thirimanne put together a 91-run partnership before Thirimanne was caught by Taylor off the bowling of Elliott for 45.
Kumar Sangakkara only made nine runs before he was caught by Nathan McCullum at long-on off the bowling of Elliott.
Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene stabilised the innings with a 70-run partnership, during which Dilshan registered his 20th ODI century, before Jayawardene was clean bowled by Trent Boult for 30.
Dilshan ended up making 116 off 106 balls, which included 17 boundaries and a six, before he was caught by Nathan McCullum at extra cover off the bowling of Mitchell McClenaghan.
Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Following Dilshan’s dismissal, Sri Lanka’s middle and lower order completely collapsed as they went from 215/4 to being bowled out for 252.
Boult was the most successful bowler with four wickets, while McClenaghan, Elliott and Tim Southee claimed two wickets each.
Thirimanne was disappointed with his side’s performance, and said: “It was a tough day as they were at one stage 90 for 5. We thought we could get them under 200. We didn’t bowl to our bowling plan and that cost us. We thought it might turn a little bit because of the spongy bounce. But it didn’t turn and our fast bowlers didn’t really get it in the right area. We could have used another fast bowler which is why I bowled seven overs. The ball didn’t turn so that was a mistake for us. Dilshan played really well for us. He has been scoring runs for us since the first match. We planned yesterday for me to open the batting but we have to get more responsibility as the three senior players are going really well. The youngsters have to step up for SL.”
McCullum was ecstatic to have taken a 3-1 lead in the series, and said: “It was a decent bowling performance in the end. We let SL dictate the game early on, so there is room for improvement there. Incredible batting performance from Luke and Elliott. Amazing how they got us to 360-odd. It didn’t feel easy earlier on as they got the ball to seam around and move, but once it lost that it became easier to bat on. From 90-odd for 5 we had two guys step up and produce one of the best partnerships you will ever see in ODIs. Different guys stood up today, as Trent bowled really well with the new ball. Thought Tim was very good with the new ball as well. Thought Mitch came back really well, he needs to work at the start of his spell though, but he is becoming an instrumental part of the team. Looks like it might be flat on Sunday, but it would help to win the toss I am sure. Thought it was a great wicket, fast outfield, and a great crowd which the boys thoroughly enjoyed.”
Ronchi and Elliott both picked up the Man of the Match award.