Cricket: Kandy leaves bitter taste in Black Caps' mouths

By Cameron McMillan

The Black Caps will be pleased to see the back of the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, a ground which has brought only rain and pain in the last six weeks.

This morning's seven wicket defeat to Sri Lanka in the third one-day international added to a forgettable run of results for New Zealand at the Kandy ground going back to September's Twenty20 World Cup.

They've won just one of their eight matches, including two ties which resulted in super-over defeats to Sri Lanka and West Indies - effectively knocking New Zealand out of the tournament.

After last week's one-off Twenty20 and the opening ODI were both abandoned due to rain, they thought they had seen the last of Pallekele but on their arrival in Colombo for the next two matches a flooded ground saw them return to Kandy. That coincided with more yet rain with Monday's result decided by the Duckworth-Lewis system.

It was little surprise that today was no different with players leaving they field for more than four hours across two separate delays, cutting the game to a 33-over affair.

Sri Lanka chased down New Zealand's revised target of 197 with seven wickets in hand.

Adding insult to injury, Tillakaratne Dilshan continued his love affair of the Pallekele pitch scoring his third century at the ground with 102 not out.

New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor admitted after the defeat that the rain and results were getting to the side.

"I guess it's just been a frustrating tour all round and probably a frustrating ground to play at,'' he said. "We've come so close in a lot of games here, Twenty20 World Cup and the last two games we've had competitive totals. They should have been enough to defend but, at the end of the day, they weren't.

"It is what it is. You've just to get on with it.''

If there has been one positive so far from the tour, which has also seen players having to check into hospital, it's been the batting of BJ Watling.

The young Northern Districts batsman scored his second 50 of the series with a brilliant 96 not out, despite the fact his innings was split into three batting sessions.

Watling passed John Reid's 80 for the highest score by a New Zealander against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and continues a rich vein of form in the 50-over game following scores of 60, 72 and 40 in his previous three innings in the West Indies.

Despite producing his fourth 50 in five innings, he might feel aggrieved because the shortened overs this morning robbed him a decent shot at a maiden ODI ton. He needed to hit a six off the final ball to reach three figures but could manage only a single.

"I thought the way BJ Watling was out there was outstanding,'' Taylor said. "He just keeps growing and growing as a player and the belief in himself, I'm sure, from the way he's batting in the last two games is going to be outstanding for himself but also the team.

"I guess competition is always good. He's not an automatic selection but I'm sure the way he's been playing in the last little while is pushing for that.''

"He took risks. He hit the ball in the air, it wasn't all along the ground. He showed the power game he has and once again it's going to be good for his own confidence and half the battle at this level is self-belief.''

Taylor's side will need to ensure their frustrations don't get the better of them.

Sri Lanka lead the one-day series 2-0 with two matches remaining. The next match is in Hambantota on Saturday night (NZT).

"Hopefully there's better weather,'' Taylor said. "I guess there's more frustration creeping in. I expect more DVDs and things in the hotel room.''

- NZ Herald

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