When New Zealand came into the third one day international against Sri Lanka they were bursting with confidence to wrap up the one day series. They won the first ODI by seven wickets and then returned for the second game to thrash Sri Lanka by 10-wickets. In both games New Zealand bowlers did a fine job with fast bowler Matt Henry leading from the front in the absence of Trent Boult and Tim Southee. Henry has claimed eight wickets in the two games so far. Martin Guptill has done the same for Kiwis in the batting where he top scored in both games and smashed a 30-ball 93 as Kiwis demolished Sri Lanka in the second game at Christchurch.
For Sri Lanka it is hugely important that seniors like Tillakaratne Dilshan, Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal step up and inspire the team. They have not managed to pass the 200 mark even once in both games. Sri Lanka were hoping that a potential change in the captaincy would leave them with a chance in the series. Their prospects did not appear to be very bright even in the third game.
But Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne and Danushka Gunathilaka struck fifties to help reach the required target and end New Zealand’s solid run with an eight-wicket thrashing in the 3rd ODI at Nelson.
Sri Lanka managed to bounce back in this game with this eight-wicket win at the Saxton Oval in Nelson on Thursday. Chasing 277 in the pursuit of creating an opportunity to keep the series alive, the Sri Lankan top-order rose magnificently to the occasion and made the chase look easy. Veteran opener Thilakarathne Dilshan (91 off 92 balls) top-scored with his 47th ODI half century and raised a vital opening partnership worth 98 runs with his dashing opening partner Danushka Gunathilaka who blasted 65 off 45 balls inclusive of four sixes and seven fours. Dilshan was also figured in another worthy partnership worth 111 runs with one drop batsman Lahiru Thirimanne who made an unbeaten 87 off 103. Finally Thirimanne together with reliable Dinesh Chandimal raised an unbroken 68 runs stand. This win gave Sri Lankan supporters something to cheer about on New Year’s eve. Gunathilaka was adjudged Man of the Match for his maiden ODI fifty in his fourth one-day match.
Earlier, New Zealand were restricted to 276 for the loss of eight wickets in their 50 overs, with stand-in skipper Kane Williamson top-scoring with 59 runs off 73 balls. Kiwis, whose batting order has barely faced any hurdles in the series so far, were put to test in this game.
New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat with Williamson replacing the injured skipper Brendon McCullum. Tim Southee played his first game in the ODI series by coming in place of the consistent Henry. Adam Milne returned to the side after recovering from injury to replace Leg spinner Ish Sodhi. The Sri Lankans, on the other hand, decided to make only one change with fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep coming in for off spinner Sachithra Senanayake.
In the bowling department for Sri Lanka once again it was the young speed merchant Dushmantha Chameera who bowled with sheer pace, almost getting up to 150/kmph. He picked up 2 for 38 in his 10 overs while young leg spinner Jeffery Vandersay had figures of 2 for 55. The other bowlers who chipped in were Nuwan Pradeep (2 for 55) and Milinda Siriwardena (1 for 33). They were ably supported by Chameera.