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ICC World Cup 2023: Kiwis on verge of semis

Updated on: 10 November,2023 07:00 AM IST  |  Mumbai
R Kaushik |

Splendid bowling show helps New Zealand bowl out Sri Lanka for just 171 before chasing the target with ease at Bangalore to almost confirm semi-final date with India

ICC World Cup 2023: Kiwis on verge of semis

New Zealand players celebrate a Sri Lankan wicket at Bangalore yesterday. Pic/Bipin Patel

Led by the admirable Trent Boult and the impressive Mitchell Santner, New Zealand kept up their end of the bargain at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Thursday. Sitting on a four-match losing streak that threatened to scupper their World Cup semi-final chances, Kane Williamson’s men faced a must-win scenario against a dispirited SL and came through with flying colours. Not only did they secure a commanding five-wicket victory, they also boosted their net run-rate by hunting down 172 in just 23.2 overs, thereby pushing closest contenders Pakistan to a corner.

Pakistan face a Herculean task in their last league tie against England on Saturday in Kolkata, which they must win by a handsome margin to sneak ahead of the Kiwis on NRR. Kusal Mendis called wrong at the toss, which allowed NZ to dictate play. With the threat of rain—which thankfully stayed away—looming large, Williamson opted to chase, triggering a bizarre period of play when SL blazed a stunning trail through Kusal Perera, but kept losing wickets at an alarming rate.

Also Read: Semi-final scenarios after New Zealand's five-wicket win over Lankans

Lankan tail wags

In the end, if they managed 171, it was thanks to an innings-high last-wicket stand of 43 between Maheesh Theekshana and Dilshan Madushanka, the two bowlers most likely to bring SL back into the contest. But Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra made it singularly one-way traffic with an 86-run opening stand in just 74 deliveries, after which Daryl Mitchell hastened the end with a bouquet of powerful blows.

Perera (51 off 28 balls), dropped on nought by Tom Latham off Tim Southee, played his best innings of the tournament, opening his shoulders and producing strokes reminiscent of Sanath Jayasuriya on a track that had considerable bounce and encouraged shot-making. Pathum Nissanka fell the ball after Perera was reprieved, and Boult fired out Kusal Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama in the same over to rock the Lankans.

Also Read: Australia T20Is: Pandya's availability uncertain, Surya or Ruturaj to lead

Santner’s double blow

Left-arm spinner Santner procured substantial turn and bounce to have Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva caught off the edge at slip and a quick finish appeared imminent when SL slipped to 113-8 and 128-9. But with obduracy, Theekshana and Madushanka brought up their highest individual scores and ensured that the 17,000-strong crowd had something to cheer about. The second half was always going to be frenetic with NZ’s eye on the run-rate.

Conway played handsome strokes of his own, but it was fellow left-hander Ravindra, who was the enforcer, Madushanka suffering at the hands of both openers as he had a rare bad day in office. Both men fell with their half-centuries looming in the quest for quick runs and Williamson chopped Mathews on, but neither the result nor the rapidity with which it would be achieved was in any doubt. The crushing defeat was a massive blow to SL’s chances of qualifying for the Champions Trophy in Pakistan in 2025.

Playing India would be challenging: Kane

New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson said on Thursday it would be “challenging” for his side to play hosts India if his team are “fortunate enough” to book a place in the semi-final. “Playing semis is special, but playing the home team will be challenging. Looking forward to it if we are fortunate enough to have it,” Williamson said. “There’s a few teams that could end up on similar points. [That is] not in our control. We will be having a couple of days off, not sure what’s happening,” was how he summed up the situation.

Brief scores

SL 171 all out in 46.4 overs (K Perera 51, M Theekshana 38*; T Boult 3-37, R Ravindra 2-21, M Santner 2-22, L Ferguson 2-35) lost to NZ 172-5 in 23.2 overs (D Conway 45, D Mitchell 43, R Ravindra 42; A Mathews 2-29) by five wickets

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