JUNE 1, 2019
Brief Scorecard: New Zealand 137 for 0 (Guptill 73*, Munro 58*) beat Sri Lanka 136 (Karunaratne 52*, Ferguson 3-22, Henry 3-29) by 10 wickets
CARDIFF, ENGLAND – Yes it was a good toss to win. Yes it was a green pitch. Yes it was beautiful morning on which to bowl. All that said, New Zealand’s demolition of Sri Lanka in Cardiff was a powerful display by a team that always seems to figure at the pointy end of World Cups, demonstrating too that the climes of an early English summer (albeit in Wales this day) will only add to the their prospects of progressing to the final four.
Equally, Sri Lanka’s meekness – apart from a doughty innings by their captain Dimuth Karunaratne, who was the 12th cricketer and second Sri Lankan to carry his bat in an ODI – underlined the somewhat listless state of their cricket presently. A few months after the horrific Easter terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, the island nation would have hoped for some good news; instead Karunaratne’s men looked overwhelmed by their opponents, the conditions and the occasion.
This was also the third match in a row at the World Cup to finish well ahead of schedule with a yawning gap between the sides. On that evidence, notions of a 10-team format reducing the number of “mismatches” and increasing “competitiveness” are already looking shaky.
Opportunity often brings discovery, a point underlined by how Matt Henry responded to keeping his place ahead of a not-yet-fully-fit Tim Southee. Taking the new ball, Henry struck with his second ball to put Sri Lanka off balance from the start, and his command of line and length set a strong example for others to follow – something recognized by the match award.
Lockie Ferguson’s undoubted pace also turned heads, scything through the Sri Lankan middle order to ensure that Colin Munro and Martin Guptill had only a modest chase to gobble up. Gobble they did, sprinting home with a whopping 203 balls remaining.
There was a time, after Henry’s initial breakthrough, where Sri Lanka looked capable of more. As Karunaratne dropped anchor, Kusal Perera flayed a quartet of boundaries through the cover and gully regions with the axeman’s relish of a latter-day Sanath Jayasuriya.
At 46 for 1 after eight overs they were well and truly in the game, but Perera’s eagerness to get to grips with the New Zealand pacemen got the better of him when consolidation may have been wiser, skying Henry to open up an end. When Henry got his areas exactly right for Kusal Mendis’ first ball, squared up and edging to a diving Guptill at second slip, the game was more or less up.
Some may argue that Karunaratne might have tried to exert more of an influence, but he largely played the kind of sensible innings that needed only to have been mirrored at the other end to allow the Sri Lankans to wriggle their way to a tally beyond 200. As it was, only the Pereras, Thisara and Kusal, made it as far as double figures, while a trio of ducks were registered.
Ferguson’s sheer speed to beat Dhananjaya de Silva was one of the more arresting moments of the remainder, and when New Zealand were briefly denied the final Sri Lankan wicket due to hesitance to rule that Mitchell Santner had cleanly caught Karunaratne, the fast bowler responded by rattling Lasith Malinga’s stumps the very next ball.
There were a couple of edgy moments at the start of New Zealand’s pursuit, but they were brief. Sunshine and warmth had helped calm the surface and Malinga slipped obligingly into the driving and hooking zones of Guptill and Munro. While a packed Cardiff crowd were able to fill the ground with plenty of time to see the majority of the match, they were left only with memories of New Zealand dominance and Sri Lankan struggle. Some closer games, please.