New Zealand snatched a nailbiting last ball victory over Sri Lanka yesterday after tail-end batsman James Franklin guided the hosts back from the brink of disaster in their one-day cricket international in Queenstown, New Zealand, on Saturday.
The Queenstown crowd erupted in celebration as No. 11 batsman Michael Mason found the boundary with a lofted drive off the last ball of the match.
Mason had been unable to score from any of the preceding five balls of the final over from spinner Sanath Jayasuriya.
But it was coolheaded Franklin who had put New Zealand in the position for victory with 45 crucial runs in the final overs and he had some valuable advice for his teammate before he faced the last ball.
"I just said to him whack the crap out of that last one, and he did," Franklin said later.
Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene described Franklin's innings as the difference between the two teams yesterday and said his team had needed to score 15 to 20 runs more to set a decent target for New Zealand.
The victory leveled the series 1-1 with three matches to play after New Zealand scored 228-9 in their 50 overs in reply to Sri Lanka's 224-7.
The home side was always on the pace in terms of the required run rate but wickets fell regularly, leaving the tailenders with the task of finishing the job. Sri Lanka appeared to be in the box seat by the 38th over when New Zealand had been reduced to 175-7.
But Franklin kept his head along with the other tailenders, especially No. 10 Mark Gillespie (11), who successfully fended off a series of high speed yorkers from Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga.
New Zealand appeared to be cruising to victory earlier but the introduction of super spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who took 3-31 off his 10 overs, ensured the result continued to hang in the balance.
Opener James Marshall, who came into the match with a one-day international average of only five, gradually found his confidence to topscore for New Zealand with 50.
But his repeated risk-taking cost his own wicket when he ran himself out just after reaching his half century.
A mix-up between Marshall and Ross Taylor (15) had earlier seen Taylor run out just as the innings was starting to take off.