Men's ODI WC: Bowlers set up New Zealand's 5-wicket win over SL; virtually seal semis spot

Men's ODI WC: Bowlers set up New Zealand's 5-wicket win over SL; virtually seal semis spot

Bengaluru: ICC Men's Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka

Bengaluru, Nov 9 (IANS) New Zealand survived a minor scare before surging to a five-wicket victory over Sri Lanka with 160 balls to spare, all but grabbing the fourth and last place in the semifinals of the ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2023 at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday..

New Zealand, who needed to win their last league match by a big margin to further improve their Net Run Rate, bundled out Sri Lanka for 171 and were cruising towards victory at 86 for no loss in 12 overs as Devon Conway (45) and Rachin Ravindra (42) came out firing on all cylinders.

Both the openers were out in quick succession and skipper Kane Williamson departed for 14 before Daryl Mitchell blasted a 31-ball 43 to put them back on track for a five-wicket victory.

It was an incredible bowling performance followed by an 86-run opening stand that built the base for New Zealand's important victory over Sri Lanka at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.

The victory has left Pakistan and Afghanistan, both of whom are on eight points, needing virtually impossible targets to achieve in their respective last-league matches to overcome New Zealand's superior NRR.

To deny them and reach the semis, Pakistan need to beat England either by 287 runs while batting first or with about 284 balls to spare while chasing.

It is even more improbable for Afghanistan as they need to beat the second-placed South Africa, already in the semis, by 438 to surpass New Zealand's NRR.

It was the New Zealand quicks who made things possible for the Black Caps as they ran amok in Bengaluru.

Kusal Perera stood out as the lone warrior in the Powerplay for Sri Lanka even as four of his mates perished in quick succession to some quality bowling from the Kiwis' new-ball bowlers.

Sri Lanka's hopes of Perera salvaging them from the ruckus fell in the Powerplay itself when Lockie Ferguson snared him with the left-hander attempting a big hit over the off-side.

Reduced to 70/5, Sri Lanka needed the experience of Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva to save them, but Mitchell Santner stepped in, sending back the duo in successive overs to put the Black Caps well and truly on top. They eventually ambled along to 171, but New Zealand's rousing start with the bat all but sealed the contest.

Chasing 172, New Zealand made a strong start in the Powerplay as Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra came up with determined efforts.

Conway survived a close caught-behind shout against left-arm seamer Dilshan Madushanka, who had proved to be a menace in the Powerplay overs this tournament, but soon launched a scathing attack on him, one that saw the pacer go for seven boundaries against the New Zealand left-hander.

With Conway negating Madushanka and Ravindra tackling the spinners with authority, 73 runs came in the first 10 overs, pacing the way for the Black Caps to chase down the target with ease.

The breakthrough came when Dushmantha Chameera had Conway caught at mid-wicket for 45 in a maiden-wicket over. Maheesh Theekshana sent back Ravindra next over as Sri Lanka finally found a way into the deep New Zealand middle order.

But Dary Mitchell struck back by smashing Chameera for a six and a four next over and then reverse-swept and slogged Theekshana to reveal more of his intent. 

Mathews gave Sri Lanka a whisker of hope when he cleaned up Williamson in the 19th over to leave New Zealand at 130/3, but with less than fifty runs needed to ace the target, the fightback seemed too late.

Things took a further turn as New Zealand lost Mark Chapman after a miscommunication with Mitchell. Mathews then got the big wicket of Mitchell himself as New Zealand lost their top five. But by then, New Zealand were only ten runs away from a win that could well ensure their semi-final spot.

Glenn Phillips hit back-to-back boundaries to seal the deal as New Zealand affirmed their position in the top four of the points table. Only a huge win for Pakistan or Afghanistan in their respective final clashes will see them miss out on a knockout spot.

Earlier, Tim Southee struck early, sending back Pathum Nissanka a ball after he was dropped. 

Perera was in the mood to go after the New Zealand attack and judiciously freed his arms despite the ball moving around. Fortune favoured him as Sri Lanka got off to a flier, making 30 runs in the first four overs.

Even when Boult sent back Kusal Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama in the fifth over, Perera didn't stop hammering the attack. He blasted Southee for four boundaries in an over and then added two more off Boult next over.

The fifty came up of a mere 22 balls, making it the fastest fifty by any player against New Zealand in the men's Cricket World Cup.

Boult, meanwhile, continued to cause mayhem at the other end, sending back the centurion from the previous game, Charith Asalanka, for eight. 

With Perera dismissed next over, Sri Lanka's hopes fell flat and Santner's double strike in quick succession firmly put the nail on Sri Lanka's innings.

Sri Lanka reached a respectable total thanks to Maheesh Theekshana and Dilshan Madushanka, who combined in a resistant tenth-wicket partnership. 

Theekshana, who has faced more than 20 balls in four of his six knocks at the 2023 World Cup, looked composed and determined again and he found an able company in Madushanka. The duo joined hands in the 33rd over and ensured the team batted till the 47th over, stitching together 43 valuable runs.

But in the end, their efforts were not enough as New Zealand romped to victory and set themselves for securing a place in the semifinals.

Brief scores: 

Sri Lanka 171 all out in 46.4 overs (Kusal Perera 51, Maheesh Theekshana 38 not out; Trent Boult 3-37, Lokie Ferguson 2-35, Mitchell Santner 2-22, Rachin Ravindra 2-21) lost to New Zealand 172/5 in 23.2 overs (Devon Conway 45, Rachin Ravindra 42, Daryl Mitchell 43; Angelo Mathews 2-29) by five wickets.

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