Cricket: Return to Eden Park triggers rapturous semifinal memories

By David Leggat

Photo / NZH
Photo / NZH

Fabulous memories will be stirred for New Zealand when they return for the first time to the scene of one of their greatest triumphs at Eden Park tomorrow.

Anyone who was present won't forget it either - March 24, when they beat South Africa in a staggering climax to their World Cup semifinal. It produced one of the most sustained outpourings of raw, emotional support any New Zealand side can have experienced.

This time, the finale to Sri Lanka's tour, won't compare on the noise register but, being T20 cricket, there will still be a level of excitement, particularly if it runs as closely as Thursday's opener in Mt Maunganui did.

For New Zealand, whose T20 results have been the least impressive of the three formats in recent years, it's a chance for a series win against the defending world champions and No1 side.

Already 1-0 up courtesy of that three-run squeeze at Mt Maunganui, this will be a good opportunity to get their world T20 preparation off to a solid start.

One win is a small step; back-to-back success against quality opposition is something more substantial.

The win was tighter than New Zealand would have expected after appearing to have Sri Lanka on toast at 42 for four, and 84 for five, three balls short of halfway chasing 183.

But there was a valuable lesson for the looming world event in India in March out of Sri Lanka's challenge, which simply wouldn't go away.

"We are going to have to be aware if we get them five down, it does not mean they're going to roll over and die," bowling coach Dmitri Mascarenhas said yesterday.

"As we saw with Sri Lanka, from No 1-9, batters [in all teams] are going to come hard from start to finish, so it's going to be a challenging tournament."

Sri Lanka will reflect that they could have won the game but for a sloppy start and particularly loose shots from key men Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews.

The three most threatening batsmen for Sri Lanka, Danushka Gunathilaka (46 off 29 balls), Milinda Sirawardana (42 off 31) and Thisara Perera (28 off 19), have one thing in common - they're all left-handers. Food for thought for New Zealand on their lines of approach.

T20 demands canny thought processes from bowlers. Trent Boult, man of the match with his fine three for 21 off four overs, used a slower ball expertly, as had veteran Nuwan Kulasekara in New Zealand's innings.

Sri Lanka need to win tomorrow to retain their top ranking. New Zealand can see a small step up with victory.

Auckland batsman Colin Munro has a fine opportunity, assuming he plays tomorrow, to build on his 26-ball 36 at No 3 on Thursday. The absence of Brendon McCullum has opened a space in the top three. Munro has been given first dibs.

- NZ Herald

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