Christchurch, Feb 14 (IANS) Co-hosts New Zealand sent out a stern warning to all their rivals by earning a convincing 98-run victory over 2011 finalists Sri Lanka in the ICC World Cup opener at the Hagley Oval here Saturday.
New Zealand showcased their all-round skills, first scoring a mammoth 331/6 and then bowling out Sri Lanka for 233 in 46.1 overs to begin their Group A campaign with a bang.
Sri Lanka got off to a good start with Lahiru Thirimanne (65) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (24) stringing together 67 runs for the opening wicket. Former captain Kumar Sangakkara (39) Thirimanne added another 57 runs to take Sri Lanka to 124/1 in 21.5 overs.
At the time, the 1996 Cup winners were in the game and in with a good chance to chase down the imposing target. However, that all changed as Thirimanne’s dismissal led to a string of wickets for the Black Caps and the end of the Sri Lankan challenge.
Thirimanne, Mahela Jayawardene (0) and Sangakkara fell in the space of five runs to leave Sri Lanka tottering at 129/4 after 23.5 overs. The Sri Lankan lower middle-order failed to join the party as Dimuth Karunaratne (14) and Jeevan Mendis (4) were dismissed cheaply.
Captain Angelo Mathews (46) put up a brief fight but he too was dismissed soon enough.
New Zealand will take a bag full of positives from the game. The form of captain Brendon McCullum (65) and Corey Anderson’s whirlwind 75 off 46 would head the list.
Another big plus will be the return to form of Daniel Vettori. The left-arm spinner bowled superbly, giving away just 34 runs off his 10 overs and picking two key wickets.
Earlier, the Black Caps lost the toss and were put in to bat. McCullum and Martin Guptill (49) shared a 111-run stand for the opening wicket to set New Zealand on their way.
Without much swing or seam movement, the Sri Lankan bowlers were helpless against McCullum’s power hitting. The New Zealand opener hit 10 boundaries and a six to reach 65 off just 49 balls.
Kane Williamson (57) and Ross Taylor (14) put on a 57-run partnership for the third wicket to take New Zealand to 193/2 in 33 overs. However, the duo fell in successive balls as New Zealand lost some steam in the middle overs.
But Grant Elliot (29) and Anderson added 65 for the fifth-wicket to bring the Black Caps back on track. Anderson then teed off in the final overs to cause massive damage. Along with wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi, Anderson scored 73 runs off the final six overs.
The Sri Lankan bowlers came in for severe stick with premier pacer Lasith Malinga failing to pick up a single wicket and going for 84 runs off his 10 overs.