Wellington: Kumar Sangakkara's masterful double of a century and a world-record wicketkeeping performance inspired Sri Lanka to a 34-run win over New Zealand in their one-day series finale in Wellington on Thursday.
Even though it was a dead rubber, with New Zealand going into the match holding an unbeatable 4-1 lead in the seven-match series, it was a morale boosting win for Sri Lanka who had underperformed in the earlier matches.
They posted their highest total of the series with 287-6 from 50 overs, with Sangakkara contributing an unbeaten 113, and New Zealand were all out for 253 in the 46th over.
Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara celebrates reaching the three-figure mark during the seventh and final ODI match between against New Zealand at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Thursday. Pic/AFP
When Corey Anderson threatened to blast New Zealand into contention with 29 off 20 deliveries, Sangakkara's diving one-handed catch to remove the sixth wicket made him the most successful ODI keeper. It was his 473rd dismissal, one more than the previous record set by Australian Adam Gilchrist.
Although the victory restored some confidence to Sri Lanka they still have concerns about their batting depth with only Tillakaratne Dilshan and Lahiru Thirimanne contributing decent partnerships with Sangakkara. Sangakkara put on 71 for the first wicket with Thirimanne (30) and 104 for the second wicket with Dilshan (81) who was caught behind off Tim Southee with Sri Lanka looking strong at 175-2 and 17 overs remaining. But as has been the pattern in their previous innings, they were unable to accelerate the scoring despite having wickets in hand. Only Thisara Perera, with 20 off 12 offered late lusty hitting while Mahela Jayawardene, who opened with a century in game one of the series, went for 14.
In contrast New Zealand fell well behind in the run chase and appeared on the ropes when the required rate ballooned to 8.33 after the 35th over and only four wickets in hand. But they showed their batting depth going into the World Cup next month with Luke Ronchi scoring 47 off 42 deliveries, Daniel Vettori 35 off 30 and Kyle Mills 30 but as the gap narrowed they ran out of wickets. Fittingly, Sangakkara ended the match when he whipped off the bails to run out Mills.
At the top of the New Zealand innings Martin Guptill was removed first ball for the second time in the series. It offered an opportunity for Tom Latham, deputising at the top of the order for rested skipper Brendon McCullum, to prove himself but he only lasted nine deliveries before he was bowled for six and New Zealand were 11-2 in the fourth over.
Dushmantha Chameera made a dream start to his international career claiming the wicket of New Zealand's senior batsman Ross Taylor with his sixth delivery. Kane Williamson, with a cautious 54 from 83 deliveries, top scored for New Zealand who continue their World Cup build up against Pakistan in Wellington on Saturday.