A couple of days ago it was noted that Munro’s place in the squad, or at least the starting XV, was perhaps not as rock solid as previously considered.
In a strange way the loss of a couple of quick wickets might have helped him today. He knewhe had to play more sedately than usual.
Guptill got a very good outswinger from Malinga, and Williamson soon followed when Lakshan Sandakan took the kind of flick the ball up while you put a foot over the boundary rope catch that 10 years ago would’ve been shown around the world but these days seem expected.
In contrast, you have to really feel for Chandimal. When on 60 Munro mistimed a lofted shot to long on. If he’d just stayed where he was, that would have been the easiest catch of the day. Instead he came running in, paused, backpedalled, and dropped the catch. He got a good view of the ball trickling over the boundary rope from lying on the ground.
For a while it looked as if Sri Lanka would really pay (for example the next ball went for 6) but on 87 he was run out in a classic NZ ODI mid innings mix-up.
This was his equal top score in ODIs. It showed he can do it and has answered some critics to that extent. That is some motivation throughout the rest of the home season. His 87 was off 77 balls, so maybe it wasn’t really that sedate after all.
It would seem appropriate that Taylor would later run himself out as well. There was another cracking knock from Neesham; 64 at the much more sedate SR of 173, and some promising signs from Siefort at the end that he may be capable of the step up.
Call out to Thisara Perera; he of the 34 run over fame from Thursday. He must have enjoyed dispatching the New Zealand bowlers to all parts of the ground in scoring the fastest ODI century ever against New Zealand; and there have been some fast knocks over the years. It was a remarkable knock; 13 sixes probably set some record too.
At 128/7 with an asking rate of around 9 it looked like it was time to go home. His hitting was even cleaner than Neesham’s earlier and New Zealand watching on kept on muttering Stoinis behind their fingers.
Like with the Stoinis the climb was too steep, and New Zealand got there in the end. Don’t you learn the most from the tight ones?
The bowling once again showed that there will be continuous movement in the pecking order of the bowlers leading up to, and during, the World Cup.
Henry was much better than on Thursday, which was balanced out by Southee not being at his best; the wides and full tosses at the death being a particular worry. If the theory that these two are in direct competition for a starting XI in May then this is going to be one hell of a ride.
Again, and this won’t go away quickly, there was focus on Neesham’s bowling. He wasn’t as economical today but he still looked sharp. He also seems to be bowling with a plan on return. Part of that plan is to bowl one short pitched ball an over. This brings up the old risk / reward equation; conceding a couple of wides this evening but also producing a wicket.
The real test was when he came back in the 43rd over, kept a rampant Perera at bay, and removed Sandakan, via another short one, when things were starting to get a bit nervy.
Until his last over went for 20 runs, Sodhi was the bowler who applied both scoring and wicket pressure throughout the middle of the innings.
The weakest part of the overall performance was the catching; towards the end it was a mixture of comical and unbelievable. But it’s a bit trickier to do rankings based on that.
And we will never know if the issues around calling for a DRS have been resolved.