Right then! The second ODI ends. What a humdinger of a game. Still recovering from the blues. The series is gone but Sri Lanka have begun 2019 on a wonderful note. Fought hard in the first ODI, almost crossed the line here. Can they get lucky the third time and avoid a whitewash? The third and final ODI is a day game and will be played on Tuesday, January 8, 2018 at 11 am local (2200 GMT, previous night). ADIOS! TAKE CARE!
Victorious New Zealand captain, Kane Williamson, says that they were clinical for nearly 85 percent of the game. Praises his batters for batting well and his bowlers for doing a great job, till Thisara came along. Is reminded of that Marcus Stoinis knock at Eden Park. Admits that too many fumbles were made, including himself and is relieved that it did not cost them the match. Stresses that the side needs to move on from here and focus on the next game and try to maintain the same intensity. On the team as a whole, Williamson is happy with the guys performing their roles better. Is happier for this game because his batsmen adjusted on a slower wicket. Sees these as good signs for the future but wants his unit to react well to momentum shifts as it does not take time for the tides to change. Credits Jimmy Neesham for doing well with the bat and adds that it was his knock which was able to ward off the Thisara threat in this game. Is excited to witness the new age of New Zealand cricket.
Sri Lankan skipper, Lasith Malinga, manages to put in a smile. He says that in spite of getting good partnerships at the top, the middle order collapsed. Praises Thisara Perera and reckons that he always believed that he is a match-winner. Like Thisara, Malinga too, says that the Lankans learnt a lot from the first game, especially bowling according to the wind factor. On the final match, Lasith says that they have the talent but they need to play according to the situation by analyzing things correctly.
THISARA PERERA HAS BEEN NAMED THE MAN OF THE MATCH. Anyone surprised? Not really. Perera says that he is really proud of himself as he got his maiden ODI century. Stresses that in the last couple of years, he has been batting at number 9. If he gets to bat at number 7 or higher, he reckons he can play more valuable knocks. Thanks the management for giving him that opportunity. On his knock today, Thisara says that he figured out that in the previous match, the Lankan batters struggled to hit big shots because of the wind. So he planned accordingly in this game. Adds that once Malinga got out, he was trying to face as many balls as possible, as many as 5 in an over. On being asked about revenge against Neesham and trying to hit 6 sixes in an over, Thisara smiles humbly and says that he does not look for revenge or any such stuff. Just concentrates on playing the game. What a modest fellow.
Earlier in the day, the Kiwis raked up 319/7 after electing to bat on a sluggish surface. They lost two wickets cheaply but Munro's 87, Taylor's 90 and a quickfire 64 from 37 by Jimmy Neesham took them past the 300-mark. Looking at the margin of victory, one can just sense the importance of that Neesham knock. Please stay tuned for the presentation...
Coming to the bowling, it was clinical for most part from the Kiwis. They kept their cool when wickets were not coming regularly and then that period in the middle stages where Sri Lanka lost 6/16 in 5 overs turned the tide. However, after that plenty of dropped catches were put down - as many as 7 - which nearly cost them the game. Ish Sodhi was the pick of the bowlers, with 3/55.
It has been so much Thisara Thisara Thisara that we barely feel like describing anyone else. But we have to. There was another player who fought hard, with a 73-ball 71. Danushka Gunathilaka. When he was there in the middle, it seemed like Sri Lanka were in with a chance. But Kusal Mendis' wicket triggered a collapse as the Lankans slipped from 112/2 to 128/7. Just imagine the work put in by Thisara.
In a team's total of 298, one man scores 140. All the sixes in this innings were hit by him - 13 to be precise - almost letting out his frustration on having conceded 10 sixes in 2 matches. But one guesses that in the end, it was just too much work to do. He tried hard, aiming to fathom a ridiculous win but in the end, the team deserving to win the game for 85 percent of the time eventually won. This was pretty similar to the Marcus Stoinis' knock at Eden Park, Auckland on January 30, 2017 - where his unbeaten 146 off 117 revived the Aussies from 67/6 to 280 - falling just 6 short.
Sigh. Pity that this game had to end in this manner. When Stumps were drawn on the third day of the Australia-India Test, Sri Lanka did not deserve to win. When a T20 league had kicked off somewhere in Bangladesh and another one was being played in Australia, we were dreaming of going home early. When the South Africa-Pakistan Test resumed, we were wondering what are the players still doing out there in the middle. But now, as the clock touches 9 am in Greenwich Meridian Time, a sad thought crosses our hearts - couldn't Lady Luck stay with Thisara for a few balls more?
Whether you are a Kiwi supporter, or a Sri Lankan fan or care for neither - you have just got to stand up and applaud. NARANGODA LIYANAARACHCHILAGE THISARA CHIRANTHA PERERA - take a bow. What a knock. Period. What a knock. Exclamation. The entire Bay Oval is standing up as one to applaud. None of the Kiwi team members are celebrating. Showing good courtesy, each and every player is beside Thisara, hugging him and patting him on the back. Sportsmanship of the greatest level. And what is that man made of? Thisara does not show his disappointment. Takes his helmet off, smiles to each and everyone, politely shaking hands, as if it is his last day in the office and everyone is wishing him good luck for the future. What a human being. Floored.
M Henry to T Perera, OUT! Caught! NEW ZEALAND WIN BY 21 RUNS! The match ends. The crowd looks stunned. Now, it slowly starts to rejoice. A slower ball, fuller in length, Thisara backs away and looks to clear long on. But he is not quite able to time it. Trent Boult comes running in from long on, keeps his eyes on the ball, dives forward and just about hangs on to it! What a match! Who would have thought? The Kiwis take an unassailable 2-0 series lead.
M Henry to T Perera, WIDE! Henry smiles. But a wry one. A bouncer, around middle and leg, Perera ducks. It has been wided for height. Did not look that high...
Problems! Thisara Perera has called for the physio. He is down on the ground. Cramps? Back issue? Hamstring? He is being given some stretching exercises now...
M Henry to N Pradeep, Pradeep is off strike! And gets three runs as well! What a result for Sri Lanka. Full and outside off, Nuwan reaches out and drives it through the covers. Colin Munro runs after the ball and just about stops it near the ropes. Should he have allowed it to cross the boundary? Perera is back on strike!
END OF OVER: 46 | 24 Runs 0 Wkt | SL: 294/9
Matt Henry has been summoned. 9-1-48-1 so far. Can he remove the tail-ender and end the game?
Tim Southee to T Perera, A bouncer to end the over. TP cannot retain the strike. He can only duck to see the ball off. But what an over - 6, 6, 0, 6, 6, 0!
Tim Southee to T Perera, SIX! This is a monstrous one! Southee is not landing the ball and Thisara keeps taking flight. Another full toss, the third one in this over, Perera clubs it over square leg for half a dozen! 26 needed from 25 balls now!
Tim Southee to T Perera, SIX! This one goes too! Full toss, on off, Thisara backs away and swings it over mid-wicket!
Tim Southee to T Perera, Another slower ball, outside off, TP swings but misses.
Tim Southee to T Perera, SIX! Change of ball but no change in the result! Another maximum as the Lankans are 38 away from a eye-popping win! A full toss, around off, Thisara backs away and swings it high in the air. Long on and long off get around... but the ball clears long on!
We have lost the ball. It has gone somewhere into the car park and one reckons that a kid has it in his hand. Runs away when the camera focusses on him. A replacement ball is brought on.
Tim Southee to T Perera, SIX! SPANKED! He is trying. He is really trying. A length ball, around middle, angling away, Perera backs away and swings it into oblivion over mid-wicket! 44 more needed from 29!
END OF OVER: 45 | 13 Runs 0 Wkt | SL: 270/9
J Neesham to N Pradeep, Pradeep survives. A bouncer, right at the face, around off, Nuwan backs away from the line of the ball and ducks. 13 from the over, Neesham's figures read 7-0-48-2.