DAMBULLA: Upul Tharanga guided Sri Lanka to a three-wicket victory over New Zealand with a solid half-century in the triangular one-day series. The left-handed opener hit nine fours in his 109-ball 70 as Sri Lanka achieved the 193-run target with more than nine overs to spare in the day-night match in Dambulla.
Sri Lankan pacemen Lasith Malinga (three for 35) and Angelo Mathews (three for 36) played key roles in restricting New Zealand to a modest total before Tharanga ensured the win with his 17th half-century in One Day Internationals.
New Zealand, who beat India by 200 runs in the opening match on Tuesday, tasted early success when fast-bowler Kyle Mills removed Tillakaratne Dilshan in his second over.
Skipper Kumar Sangakkara and Tharanga steadied the innings with an 85-run stand for the second wicket. The Sri Lankan captain made 48 before falling to a superb catch by Martin Guptill in the covers off seamer Scott Styris.
Tharanaga, dropped on 44 by Styris in the slips off spinner Nathan McCullum, was caught in the deep by debutant Bradley-John Watling off Mills, but not before putting his team in a strong position. Thilan Samaraweera (36 not out) completed the win when he hit a four off Mills, who was the most successful bowler with four for 41.
Sri Lanka earlier did not allow New Zealand to build a big partnership, the highest stand being 52 for the fourth wicket between opener Watling (55) and all-rounder Styris (24). McCullum contributed 36.
Malinga struck with the second delivery of the match when he had Guptill caught by Chamara Kapugedara for his 100th victim in One-Day Internationals.
Watling and skipper Ross Taylor (16) then put on 45 for the third wicket before Mathews bagged two wickets off three balls. He trapped the New Zealand captain leg-before and then had Kane Williamson caught by Samaraweera in the slips.
Watling, 25, completed his half-century in style when he hit left-arm spinner Rangana Herath for a four. He fell soon, top-edging a pull off Mathews to be caught by wicket-keeper Sangakkara. He struck eight fours in his 68-ball knock.
Malinga grabbed two wickets off successive balls in his second spell, dismissing Gareth Hopkins (11) and Daryl Tuffey for no score.
New Zealand made three changes from the side that defeated India in the previous match, bringing in Watling, McCullum and Tim Southee in place of Peter Ingram, Jacob Oram and Grant Elliott.
Each side will play the other twice in the preliminary league before the top two qualify for the final on August 28.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2010.
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