The whole point of these ODI build-up matches is to give the side practice in certain match situations, test the depth of the squad, and try out the venues around the country. All three boxes ticked today.
For large parts of today’s match New Zealand was behind the game. Sri Lanka was 180/2 after 33 overs and looking at 350 plus. Then in reply New Zealand was chasing 63/3 chasing 277. So, New Zealand proved they can win from behind, but that depth of squad is about to be tested with the injury to Adam Milne.
And Saxton Oval is a great venue. There is a reason the players rate it as their favourite, and that was on display today. It is now easily the best venue in the Central Districts Association; the only thing it’s missing is lights.
Sri Lanka, with their top-loaded World XI batting line-up took the game away from the hosts early. It’s wasn’t a boom-bash from the start, but rather a carefully managed increase of pace.
Then Milne showed why he is the mix. Two wickets in two balls, and the game turned on its head. Sri Lanka had to preserve wickets and Jayawardene changed down a gear. Whether Milne is still in the mix after a medical check-up remains to be seen.
Southee and McClenaghan, after rusty opening spells came back to stop any damage at the death. Sri Lanka lost 6 for 31 at the end, and the total finished up being around 50 runs less than what it looked like when Sangakkara was at the crease.
Meanwhile Vettori calmly got through his ten overs at a cost of 41 runs at a stage when the run rate at the other end was well above a run a ball.
New Zealand’s chase did not go that well; McCullum failed, and Guptill wasn’t batting at Eden Park.
Taylor’s lack of form has now displaced Guptill’s confidence issues and Elliott’s nervousness at the top of the national angst pack of cards.
Elliott’s innings showed why he’s in the squad. He will be annoyed he didn’t go on, but it was a reminder of what he can offer. There is nothing more valuable in those accumulation overs than a calm head.
Anderson played his second decent innings in three, but that was a serious brain fade in managing to get himself run out when set.
In the end it was Ronchi that got New Zealand over the line. Edgar & co vindicated one more.
Those stupid MVP points again.
3. Kane Williamson. To think he hadn’t played for a week. So composed, so measured, and so predictable.
2. Luke Ronchi. OK, that is pretty much based on one over, but it was a match-winning over. At the start of it the WASP was 40%, it was 99% at the end of it. The WASP never lies.
1. Tim Southee. The other winning part of the match was those closing overs when Sri Lanka batted. Southee owned that,
NB: Anderson would’ve got a point but for that run out….