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Tillakaratne Dilshan plucked the ball from the air at the long off fence, as an island watched with its heart in its mouth. Martin Guptill could only close his eyes and walk, for Lasith Malinga had forced him to blink. One ball later, Sri Lanka had defeated New Zealand by 6 runs. But that isn’t the story of this match.
40 overs and 348 runs weren’t enough to decide a winner, for the the Super 8s started with a Super Over, with Sri Lanka winning the eliminator. But nobody knew that it would end this way, definitely not Jayawardene and Dilshan, who came out to chase the 175-run target that the Black Caps had given them.
Time does freeze when Jayawardene steps out to drive, and it doesn’t stand still like his head, when he flicks it to midwicket. Opening partner Dilshan played his heart out as well, pulling and driving like nobody was watching, as the Lankans brought up 62 runs with just five overs being bowled. The Black Caps were clearly finding it hard to put their thinking hats on.
Seriously. Ross Taylor gave the first ball to Nathan McCullum, who gave away 17 runs. Didn’t he have anyone else to turn to?
Thankfully, Jayawardene decided to gift his wicket away, top-edging Jacob Oram to Daniel Vettori at fine leg. Not that the Sri Lanka were keen to relent, as No.3 Kumar Sangakkara came down the track to hit the ball to midwicket. Four runs in Vettori’s bowling figures. Oram’s height wasn’t respected either, as his short deliveries were put away with ease to the leg side fence, with Sangakkara’s handsome bat sending the white ball to the cleaners.
Then came the mix-up. Dilshan fresh from completing his 50, played James Franklin between deep square leg and midwicket, Sangakkara went for a second run, was sent back, for good, as Brendon McCullum negated the poor throw with some great work behind the stumps. Jeevan Mendis’ life at the crease lasted just nine deliveries, and it was clear that Dilshan had to carry his bat through. 28 needed from 18, with the shore still some distance away.
Six followed by heartbreak. Right after hitting James Franklin to midwicket for a six, Dilshan went for a second run, threw in the dive, only to be beaten by Southee’s excellent arm, and McCullum’s gloved digits. Silence everywhere. The first hole in the boat. Thisara Perera, the second. The equation- 8 needed from 6. The match looked to swing New Zealand’s way, before LahiruThirimanne came outside the off-stump to scoop the ball to the long leg fence. One needed from one.
Ross Taylor thinks he has hit the stumps, without the ball in his hands, he thinks the Sri Lankans have won, and an entire island agrees with him. The third umpire Steve Davis feels otherwise. Replays show that the ball slipped from his hands, and hit the stumps, with Thirimanne’s bat still outside the crease. That moment when you don’t know whether to cry or laugh, eat or drink. Time to begin the match within the match.
Sadly for New Zealand, they won the toss, tied the match, but lost the super over.
Opener’s day out in Pallekele
Earlier, the Kiwi openers started well after being asked to pad up by their skipper. Guptill took the aerial route, taking a short step forward, to lift the ball to the long on fence. He tried it again off the next delivery, didn’t connect, with the ball flying to Thisara Perera at mid on, only to be dropped. Lasith Malinga wasn't spared either, as the batsman used the depth of the crease, turning his bat, to send the ball past backward short leg, for four. In a subsequent over, the right-hander smashed him down the ground, without any hesitation. New Zealand were chugging along, with no breakthrough in sight for Jayawardene.
Enter Mahamarakkala Kurukulasooriya Patabendige Akila Dananjaya Perera. An 18-year old debutant who was a net bowler only a few months ago, picked up a wicket in his very first over, offering a flighted delivery, that Guptill hit straight to Perera at long off. Unfortunately, he was hit below his left eye, after a caught and bowled chance from Rob Nicol, went through his hands. The teenager ignored the swelling, and carried on, bowling from around the wicket.
But birthday boy Brendon McCullum, was in no mood to offer his sympathy, using his feet to get to the pitch of the ball, smashing it for six over long off. Ajantha Mendis however got rid of the dangerous Kiwi, with a slog sweep taking the bottom edge, only to fly into Thisara Perera’s hands at deep square leg.
Rob Nicol meanwhile was coolly living by the sword, getting on his knees to swat the ball for three sixes on the on side, bringing up his 50 in the process. Boy wonder Dananjaya soon forced an error out of Nicol, with the ball flying to Thirimanne at deep midwicket. Skipper Ross Taylor did well to play some cheeky shots , by playing late, before falling to a slower delivery from the back of Nuwan Kulasekara’s right hand. Slog….Over.
By the time the 120th delivery was bowled, New Zealand had lost 7 wickets, and had given Sri Lanka 175 runs to win. Lady Luck however, had some other plans.
Beamer: Hats off to the Black Caps
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