A dauntless reply keep the Lions alive

Tillakaratne Dilshan (L) of Sri Lanka celebrates 50 runs with teammate Lahiru Thirimanne during the 3rd One Day International cricket match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at Saxton Oval in Nelson on December 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE / AFP / Marty Melville
Tillakaratne Dilshan (L) of Sri Lanka celebrates 50 runs with teammate Lahiru Thirimanne during the 3rd One Day International cricket match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka

A gritty batting display spearheaded by the Lankan openers Danushka Gunathilaka and TM Dilshan in a dauntless pursuit to send them home, keeping the series hopes alive against the much fancied Blackcaps in the 3rd ODI at scenic Nelson.

New Zealand won the toss for the first time in the series and opted to bat in the fresh Saxton Oval pitch which has produced 4 wins for the team batting second in its 5 ODIs hosted so far. For the hosts, Kane Williamson returned from injury as he captained the side at the absence of Brendon McCullum who was suffering a back injury from the previous game. Tim Southee and Adam Milne also made their return from injuries to replace Matt Henry, who cropped 8 wickets in the first 2 ODIs and Ish Sodhi. For Sri Lanka, Nuwan Pradeep came in for Sachithra Senanayake.

Explosive openers Tom Latham and Martin Guptill were tamed in the first three overs until their willows commenced the talking. Guptill cleared the midwicket boundary off Dushmantha Chameera while the pair annexed 11 runs in the following over by Pradeep.

Guptill continued to accelerate alongside his terrific form but he was subdued by Chameera for 30 following a good catch by TM Dilshan. Spinner Jeffrey Vandersay who was at the receiving end of some carnage on debut, sent Latham for 42 in a soft dismissal to take his first ODI wicket. Two deliveries later, Vandersay dismissed Ross Taylor for a duck, reminiscing Taylor’s poor form against Sri Lanka.

Williamson and Henry Nicholls began to carve inroads as Sri Lankans were gradually gaining the upper hand perhaps for the first time in this series. After Nicholls was played on by Chameera for 20, Williamson at the other end continued his way to a vital half ton before he was removed by Milinda Siriwardana for 59. Kane Williamson’s profuse year saw him piling 2692 runs, completing third in the list of most ODI runs in a calendar year behind Ricky Ponting and Kumar Sangakkara. Despite the starts, the visitors kept on applying pressure by taking wickets at regular intervals curbing the vicious attack which New Zealand batsmen are capable of inflicting. Ronchi’s dismissal was followed by a crucial run out by Chameera which sent Mitchell Santner back to the pavilion for a fluent 38, leaving them at 215/7 in 42 overs.

However Adam Milner joined Doug Bracewell to revive the innings with a more aggressive approach adding 42 runs in 44 deliveries. Adding insult to injury, Danushka Gunathilaka dropped a dolly at deep square leg to keep Bracewell alive as he went on to make a 30-run cameo. Bracewell’s departure in the final over saw Tim Southee entering as he whipped 18 runs in a mere 4 balls including 2 sixes over long on and long off. A costly 19 runs in the last over was yet to narrate its tale in the final outcome of the game while New Zealand narrowly crossed the 275 mark like every team batting first has done at Nelson. Reducing New Zealand to a quite obtainable 276/8 was chiefly mastered by Chameera, Pradeep and Vandersay who claimed 2 wickets each.

Chasing 277, openers Danushka Gunathilaka and TM Dilshan gave a flying start by adding 83 runs inside the first 10 overs. Gunathilaka left Adam Milne and Tim Southee in shambles as the hapless pacemen were pummeled by some scintillating strokeplay. He reached his first ODI fifty in 28 deliveries and continued his brutal pongo while Dilshan braced the other end. Gunathilaka departed for a resounding, quick fire 65 with an easy catch to Ross Taylor at slips but Lahiru Thirimanne joined Dilshan to carry on from the 98-run opening stand. Dilshan’s concrete half ton combined with Thirimanne’s careful and patient batting deprived the hosts of having a grip on the game. Oozing with credence, the pair lifted the score by 111 runs in 21 overs before Dilshan missed on a well-deserved century after a sloppy run out on 91. Thirimanne cut the mustard and went on to score a well maneuvered 87 to seal the game and pull one back for the Sri Lankans in a strenuous outing.

The result unveiled the confidence that was lacking during the opening two games and what they are capable of achieving. If they are able to retain the momentum, the timely ascent would be pivotal for the Lions to turn the tables and salvage a positive outcome in an arduous tour.

Chief Scores –
New Zealand – 276/8 (50 overs)
(Kane Williamson 59, Tom Latham 42, Mitchell Santner 38; Dushmantha Chameera 2 for 38, Nuwan Pradeep 2 for 55, Jeffrey Vandersay 2 for 55)

Sri Lanka – 277/2 (46.2 overs)
(TM Dilshan 91, Lahiru Thirimanne 87*, Danushka Gunathilaka 65; Dinesh Chandimal 27*; Mitchell McClenaghan 1 for 31)

Result – Sri Lanka won by 8 wickets

Full Scorecard

Batsman How Out Bowler Runs
Total (50.0 overs) 276for8wickets
Guptill c Dilshan b Chameera 30
Latham c Pradeep b Vandersay 42
Williamson c Chameera b Siriwardana 59
Taylor c Mathews b Vandersay 0
Nicholls b Chameera 20
Santner run out (Chameera) 38
Ronchi c Kapugedera b Pradeep 7
Bracewell c Sub b Pradeep 30
Milne not out 17
Southee not out 18
Extras 1nb 10w 0b 4lb 15


Bowler Overs Runs Wickets Econ
Pradeep 10.0 55 2 5.50
Chameera 10.0 38 2 3.80
Dilshan 8.0 43 0 5.38
Kulasekara 5.0 31 0 6.20
Mathews 2.0 17 0 8.50
Vandersay 10.0 55 2 5.50
Siriwardana 5.0 33 1 6.60
Batsman How Out Bowler Runs
Total (46.2 overs) 277for2wickets
Gunathilaka c Taylor b McClenaghan 65
Dilshan run out (Taylor) 91
Thirimanne not out 87
Chandimal not out 27
Extras 1nb 6w 0b 0lb 7


Bowler Overs Runs Wickets Econ
Southee 6.0 44 0 7.33
Milne 6.0 50 0 8.33
Bracewell 6.2 45 0 7.11
McClenaghan 9.0 39 1 4.33
Santner 10.0 59 0 5.90
Williamson 8.0 38 0 4.75
Guptill 1.0 2 0 2.00