A NOTE by Michael Roberts, the Thuppahi, 2 April 2023
Given the likelihood of seaming conditions in New Zealand, I did not hold high expectations from Sri Lanka’s cricket squad in their series there. Indeed, I thought there could be a whitewash. Well, perhaps the spirit of rugger and the odd shape of Eden Gardens assisted the Lankan guys and they snatched a well-deserved victory in this encounter.
The insertion of Kusal Perera and Mahesh Theekshana seems to have helped; while Wanindu Hasaranga hits the straps at last. The absence of Lahiru Kumara was perhaps a plus: always smiling, his capricious spirit and inconsistent pace bowling is, more oftern than not, a gift to any opponents. I sometimes wonder what he has between the ears.
ESPNcricinfo Report, April 2023
When Pathum Nissanka nicked one through first ball, the hosts might have had allusions towards repeating the collapse from the first ODI, but Kusal Mendis quickly put paid to any such notions. In a nine-ball cameo the diminutive right-hander plundered 25 runs, 24 of which came in boundaries. Adam Milne took the brunt of Mendis’ wrath in a 22-run third over, inclusive of two sixes, one an impetuous flick over the shoulder. By the time Mendis departed, holing out at short fine after attempting another cheeky ramp, Sri Lanka had raced to 47 off just 3.2 overs.
Charith Asalanka and Kusal Mendis celebrate after the Super Over • Getty Images
Perera and Asalanka keep up the momentum
Sri Lanka lost three wickets inside the powerplay period, but their scoring rate never dipped. Following Mendis’ early onslaught, Dhananjaya de Silva stepped in for a 10-ball15, before Asalanka and Perera took hold of proceedings. Perera had earlier smoked three consecutive boundaries through the offside, ranging from the arc behind point to straight of mid-off, but once Asalanka joined in, he took a back seat. Unsurprisingly, Asalanka favoured the short straight boundaries, walloping five of his six sixes in the arc in front of the wicket. New Zealand would pull things back after Asalanka’s departure, allowing just 11 runs from overs 17 to 19, but such was the platform set by the two half-centurions, an 18-run last over courtesy Wanindu Hasaranga was enough to put some gloss on the innings at the death.
Mitchell shows his might
Sri Lanka looked to have orchestrated a dream start to the defence of their total, getting rid of Tim Seifert and Chad Bowes inside the first two overs, but then entered Mitchell. Off just the third delivery he faced, Mitchell showed his intent, sending a high-elbow lofted drive sailing over the short straight boundary, before repeating the trick in Dilshan Madushanka’s next over as well. At the other end Tom Latham kept the required rate in control, ensuring at least a boundary each over. Together the pair added 63 off 39 deliveries. After Latham fell Mitchell carried on, putting on a 40-ball 66-run stand with Mark Chapman. The two also memorably combined for an almost game-changing 24-run 12th over off Madushanka.
Sri Lanka hold their nerve
In a game where runs came easy, it was always going to be small periods that shifted momentum either way, and it was in these periods that Sri Lanka won the game. First there was the counter-attack following Nissanka’s early dismissal, and then Wanindu’s last over flourish. Then with the ball after Mitchell had struck with a counter of his own, skipper Shanaka brought himself on to dismiss the danger man. In the final over too Shanaka took out the equally dangerous Rachin Ravindra, whose 13-ball 26 had brought the hosts within a whisker. And then finally, the excellent Theekshana bowled a Super Over of immense quality to ensure his batters had only a minimal chase on their hands.