Sri Lanka have been a team in shambles and its latest display was testament of that fact.
New Zealand handed the islanders a 10-wicket drubbing at Sophia Gardens, getting its World Cup campaign off to a perfect start. For Sri Lanka, there are absolutely no positives that come out of the result barring the form of skipper Dimuth Karunaratne. The left-hander remained steely amidst the ruins to strike an unbeaten 52 off 84 balls.
Nothing has gone right for Sri Lanka in the lead up to the quadrennial event and, on Saturday, the batsmen failed to show stomach for a fight succumbing majorly to a three-pronged pace attack – Matt Henry (3/29), Trent Boult (1/44), Lockie Ferguson (3/22).
On a green top, under overcast conditions in Cardiff, Lahiru Thirimanne flicked the first ball to the fine leg fence but immediately departed. Henry caught him plumb in front but umpire Marais Erasmus thought otherwise. Rarely do teams opt to use the Decision Referral System (DRS) so early in the innings but Kane Williamson backed his bowler, in what turned out to be a fantastic decision.
Kusal Perera walked in to join his captain and was quick to show glimpses of what he’s capable of. One can’t help but notice the similarity between Kusal Perera and Sanath Jayasuriya, which was made more evident in the opening few overs.
Much like the legendary Jayasuriya, Kusal refused to lie low and took on the bowling with some lusty blows in a great showcase of attacking batting. Boult bore the brunt as Kusal struck him for back-to-back boundaries in the sixth over and quickly raced to 29 off 24 balls.
Henry then struck a double blow scalping both the Kusals off consecutive deliveries. First Kusal Perera was caught at mid-on by Colin de Grandhomme and then Mendis edged one to Martin Guptill at second slip.
All hopes depended on the experienced Angelo Mathews and Karunaratne to propel the Lankans to a respectable total but it wasn’t meant to be. De Grandhomme, always an asset in seam friendly conditions, got one to move away just enough taking Mathews’ outside edge and straight into Tom Latham’s gloves. With Jeevan Mendis gone the very next over, Sri Lanka were reeling at 60 for six.
There was brief respite thereafter as Karunaratne and Thisara Perera (27 off 23 balls) forged a 52-run partnership but the end was nigh. Despite Karunaratne carrying his bat through the innings, the tail did little to help the larger cause, leaving the Kiwis with a chase of 137.
It was never going to be a challenge for a formidable Black Caps line-up but it came to matter of asserting sheer dominance and sounding the warning to other sides.
Martin Guptill (73 off 51) and Colin Munro (58 off 47) were a tad circumspect to begin with before going gung ho, decimating a timid opposition attack.
The pair brought up 100 in just 13 overs and then proceeded to close out the game three overs later to hand New Zealand its fourth 10-wicket victory in World Cups.
Sri Lanka’s lowest win percentage was after Henry dismissed Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis off consecutive balls