FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA: New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by 28 runs in the first of two Twenty20 matches as international cricket made a historic attempt to break into the American market.
However, the format’s reputation as a carnival of brutal power-hitting suffered on a slow, lifeless pitch at the 20,000-capacity crowd at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium at Lauderhill saw just 212 runs in almost 40 overs. Only two sixes were hit in the entire match, one by each side, an unusual feat for a Twenty20 match as the slow pitch came under severe criticism. New Zealand struggled to a modest 120 for seven off their 20 overs before Sri Lanka were bowled out for just 92.
This and the second match between the same sides are the first cricket games on US soil between two ICC full members. Only two Sri Lankan batsmen managed to adapt to the conditions with skipper Kumar Sangakkara scoring 17 and Angelo Mathews top-scoring with 27 before the 2009 World Twenty20 runners-up lost their last six wickets for just 30 runs. Experienced medium-pacer Scott Styris did the most damage with three for 10 off three overs. Ross Taylor top-scored with 27 off 30 balls with captain Daniel Vettori contributing 21 in a low-scoring innings. For Sri Lanka, spinner Ajantha Mendis starred with the ball, taking 2-18 off his four overs.
Vettori admitted his team’s batting had been a worry. “It wasn’t much of a total, but we bowled well. We bowl well on these pitches and the big boundary helped us too. You can’t just hit a couple of sixes any time.” And Sangakkara said his side was completely outplayed by the Kiwis. “New Zealand got a great start, they pushed us back in the first six overs. “They were a bit more disciplined than us, both with the bat in the field,” added the losing captain.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 24th, 2010.