New Zealand survived a hostile spell from sling-arm fast bowler Lasith Malinga to carve out a tense one-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy in Cardiff, Wales, on Sunday.
The Black Caps messed up a simple chase of Sri Lanka’s 138 all out and were reduced to 122-8, before the last-wicket pair of Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan saw them through in the 37th over.
Left-arm seamer McClenaghan set up the victory with 4-43 after Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat, but Malinga stole his thunder with 4-34 that almost secured his team an improbable victory.
The dramatic win helped New Zealand end a six-match losing streak against Sri Lanka and claim full points in their first match of the eight-nation tournament.
New Zealand were cruising at 48-1 when Sri Lanka hit back with three wickets for a single run in the space of eight deliveries.
When James Franklin fell leg before wicket to Tillakaratne Dilshan in the 15th over, New Zealand had lost half their side for 70 runs.
Nathan McCullum, who followed his two wickets with a defiant 32, put on 35 for the seventh wicket with his brother Brendon, before Malinga removed both batsmen in the space of three balls to make it 122-8.
The ninth wicket of Kyle Mills fell when five runs were still needed and even though Malinga conceded just one run in the next over, Dilshan gave away four to seal the Black Caps’ victory.
“I was incredibly nervous at one stage,” a relieved New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said at the presentation ceremony. “Sri Lanka are always a dangerous side and we panicked a bit in the middle. The ball started stopping a bit in the second innings. It was very important to scrape through. We have enough experience to deal with situations like this, although it did get tough towards the end, but I thought we played well for the majority of the match. Our bowlers were the reason that we won the game today.”
Sri Lanka, who had won 10 of their previous 11 completed 50-over games against New Zealand, let themselves down with a sloppy batting display in the first session.
Veteran Kumar Sangakkara played a lone hand for Sri Lanka with 68, his 75th one-day half-century, but five of the other six top-order batsmen failed to reach double figures as the team folded in 37.5 overs.
Sri Lanka never recovered after losing Kusal Perera off the first ball of the match when Brendon McCullum flew to his left at second slip to pick up a brilliant catch off Mills.
“We probably needed 30, 40 more runs,” Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said. “This was not the 200-run wicket that we originally thought, but we still need to toughen up a bit. Malinga almost won it for us. We have two more games and we need to tighten up in batting. The bowlers and fielders showed good character.”
Former captains Mahela Jayawardene and Dilshan were later reprimanded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for appealing excessively.
The ICC said the two players had pleaded guilty to a level one breach of that part of the Code of Conduct which relates to “excessive appealing during an international match.”
“Dilshan and Jayawardena were charged for excessive and prolonged appealing in a keenly contested match that New Zealand won by one wicket,” the ICC said in a statement.
Match referee Andy Pycroft of Zimbabwe said both players had apologized for their actions.