A great innings from Doug Bracewell and debutant Scott Kuggeleijn helped New Zealand recover from a poor start to win their one-off T20 match against Sri Lanka.
The Black Caps were 35-run victors at Eden Park, Auckland on Friday, January 11, 2019, breaking a six-game losing streak in the shortest format.
Winless tour for Lankans
The result ensured a winless tour for Sri Lanka, with the hosts winning the two-test series and securing a 3-0 clean-sweep in the one-day internationals.
Earlier in the night, it had looked as though the visitors may finish their trip with a consolation win after all.
Sri Lanka, who won the toss and chose to bowl first, reduced New Zealand to 55-5 at the halfway point of their innings before Bracewell and Kuggeleijn turned things around.
Only called into the side after an injury to fellow all-rounder Jimmy Neesham, Bracewell clubbed 44 off 26.
Kuggeleijn, making his T20 international debut after a pair of ODIs in Ireland last year, hit 35 off 15.
Hopes fade with Perera
Sri Lanka’s chase started well, but the removal of the dangerous Thisara Perera as he approached 50 was the beginning of the end for his team’s hopes.
From 118-4 and ahead of the required run rate, the visitors were all out for 144 in the 17th over.
Sri Lanka’s decision to bowl first was almost certainly based on Eden Park’s reputation as a favourable place to chase, rather than form with the ball.
But having conceded 1054 runs to lose the one-dayers 3-0, the most ever in a three-match ODI series, the visiting bowlers had reason to smile in the early stages of the contest.
Hosts struggle at start
Colin Munro threatened a counter-attack but, when he followed for 16 off seven, the hosts were in strife at 27-4.
After a 28-run partnership between Ross Taylor, whose 33 played a valuable role settling the situation, and the returning Mitchell Santner, it was Bracewell who initiated New Zealand’s fightback.
The Central Districts player signalled his intentions with a big straight six to finish the 12th over and hit five more maximums before his departure.
That show of power was infectious for Kuggeleijn, who launched four sixes of his own, the last of which came from the last ball of the innings.
Thanks largely to Bracewell and Kuggeleijn, who combined for 41 runs in just 16 balls, the Black Caps thumped 124 runs in their final 10 overs.
While they had lost three wickets, brisk innings from Kusal Perera (23 off 12) and Niroshan Dickwella (18 off 10) helped Sri Lanka race to 61 for three after the six-over powerplay.
Thisara Perera, who had terrorised the New Zealand bowlers with brutal innings of 140 and 80 in the final two ODIs, continued that momentum.
And as he took his side past 100, the big left-hander looked like he might finally be rewarded with a victory.
But a double strike from fast bowler Lockie Ferguson in the 13th over, including removing Perera for 43 off 24 balls, swung the match back in the Black Caps’ favour.
From there spin duo Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner swept up the tail, to ensure New Zealand would greet India on a winning note.
Ferguson finished the pick of the Black Caps’ bowlers with 3-21 from his three overs, while Sodhi recovered from some early punishment to take 3-30 off 3.5.
Clay Wilson is Sports Reporter at Radio New Zealand. Indian Newslink has published the above Report and Pictures under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz