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Angelo Mathews | Dinesh Chandimal

Sri Lanka’s dismal tour continued but they came very close to a win before slipping to a fighting three-run loss in the first T20 International of the two-match series at the Bay Oval in New Zealand on Thursday (January 7).

Set a challenging target of 183, a top-order collapse cost the visitors the game as they managed 179 for 9 in their allotted 20 overs , with Danushka Gunathilaka scoring a blistering 29- ball 46.

With beautiful conditions to bat and short boundaries, the Sri Lankan batsmen certainly would have backed themselves to chase the target down. However, the chase fell apart when they were struggling at 42 for 4 in the first five overs of their innings

With beautiful conditions to bat and short boundaries, the Sri Lankan batsmen certainly would have backed themselves to chase the target down. However, the chase fell apart when they were struggling at 42 for 4 in the first five overs of their innings.

The collapse started with Tillakaratne Dilshan (0) caught behind in the second over. Dinesh Chandimal (7), who is leading the squad in the absence of Lasith Malinga, failed to get going where both were snapped up by Matt Henry.

The Kiwi bowlers did well to keep the pressure on even when Gunathilaka, the opener, went about his business with brilliant attacking display at ease. He kept the scoreboard moving when the other batsmen fell around him.

Milinda Siriwardana
Milinda Siriwardana

After the collapse, the left handed duo of Gunathilaka together with the ever reliable      (42) put on a brisk 42-run stand in just 4.3 overs to bring the Sri Lankan team back in the game.

But leg spinner Sodhi dashed Sri Lanka’s hopes when he had Gunathilaka caught at point just when it looked like the visitors were on their way to a great victory.

Sri Lanka did well not to give up and kept the chase alive with another brilliant 49-run stand in quick time. Thisara Perera (28 off 19) and Siriwardana brought the equation down to 45 in the last five overs but Henry removed the dangerous Perera of a full toss to put the visitors in trouble once more.

With 13 needed in the final over,  Williamson handed the ball to Grant Elliot, who dismissed Nuwan Kulasekera (14) on the third ball to put an end to the chase.

Earlier in day, New Zealand batsmen made a brisk start and completed their 50 in just 4.4 overs. Martin Guptill and Williamson then,  went on to score 101 runs for the first wicket in 10 overs.

Sri Lanka bowlers struggled to find an answer to Guptill’s onslaught and it was a moment of brilliance in the field that cut short the New Zealand opener’s promising start when Chamara Kapugedera got a direct hit from extra cover to catch Guptill well short but not before he had hammered 58 off 34. Williamson fell soon after for a 42-ball 53.

The scorecard read 131 for 2 in 15.1 overs at that stage and  Corey Anderson (2), who was making a comeback to the side, and Colin Munro (36) both failed to up the tempo towards the end but Ross Taylor chipped in with 22 off 9 to lift the home team to a formidable total.

Sri Lanka had a great chance to dismiss Munro when he was on 20 where the butter finger Shehan Jayasuriya spilled a dolly at deep extra cover off leg spinner Vandersay. If this catch was taken the decision of the match would have been a different one.