The Sri Lankan bowlers were all over New Zealand in the first innings before Bracewell and Kuggeleijn forged a stunning counter-attack to take their side to 179/7. The visitors then had their moments in the chase but none of the batsmen could carry on with Ferguson and Ish Sodhi's three-wicket hauls bowling them out for 144 in 16.5 overs.
Sent into bat, it was a tale of two halves for New Zealand. The first 10 overs Sri Lanka ruled the roost reducing the hosts to 55/5 before New Zealand shot back in the last 10 scoring 124 runs to wrest back the initiative.
The Islanders got off to the most perfect start with Lasith Malinga getting rid of the in-form Martin Guptill (1) with just his fourth ball of the day. The opener, fancying the short arm pull to a shortish length delivery could only manage a thick top edge which was neatly snapped up by Kusal Mendis at mid-on.
Tim Seifert, coming in at No.3 too couldn't last long with the extra bounce from pacer Kasun Rajitha bringing about his undoing for 2. Henry Nicholls came and went for 4 chopping Malinga back onto his stumps with the Sri Lankan bowlers well on top.
Colin Munro (16 in 7) got the boundary counter running for New Zealand with a six and a four before the left-hander too perished trying to loft a short ball from Rajitha only to get a top edge for Dasun Shanaka to take a simple catch as the hosts slipped to 26/4 inside the first four overs.
Ross Taylor and Mitchell Santner resisted for a bit adding 29 runs for the fifth wicket. Both batsmen were circumspect in their approach, slowly trying to build the innings. Just when it seemed the duo could take New Zealand forward Lakshan Sandakan struck, deceiving Santner (13) with a well-flighted delivery that the batsman toe-ended to long off.
At 55/5 after 10 overs, New Zealand were looking down and out but Bracewell changed the whole complexion of the game. He started off by smashing Sandakan for a massive six and even as Taylor fell for 33, he continued to play his shots.
Bracewell was then joined in by debutant Kuggeleijn in the middle and the duo launched a scintillating attack on the Sri Lankan bowlers. From 103/6, after 15 overs the duo collected 82 of the last five overs. Perera's final over went for 23 before Rajitha too was slammed for 18. While Bracewell thumped five sixes and a four in his 26-ball 44, Kuggeleijn smashed four sixes and a four in a 15-ball 35*. Tim Southee too did his bit at the end slamming a six in his 8-ball 13* as New Zealand soared to a more than competitive total.
Sri Lanka's reply then got off to a terrific start with Niroshan Dickwella drilling pacer Ferguson for a four and a six of the first two balls of the innings. Ferguson, however, struck soon castling Sadeera Samarawickrama with a 148 kmph thunderbolt for a first ball duck.
Kusal Perera then walked in and got immediately down to business. He hacked Southee for a four first ball before carting a four and a six in the second over to set Sri Lanka's innings rolling.
Kuggeleijn was brought on for a bowl and made an impact immediately getting rid of the dangerous Kusal Perera with a full-length delivery that the left-hander could only jam as far as Bracewell at mid-on for 23.
Having scored important runs and taken a crucial catch, it was time for Bracewell to shine with the ball too. Coming into bowl the fifth over, the pacer struck with his very first delivery removing Dickwella for 18 as Sri Lanka slipped to 45/3 after a good start.
Thisara Perera, the thorn in New Zealand's flesh throughout the ODI series was at it again in the T20I too. He started off with a bang slashing Bracewell over third man for half a dozen and then slog-sweeping Santner over square leg for another six.
Even with Mendis falling for a 19-ball 17, Thisara Perera continued his onslaught slamming Ish Sodhi for a four and six as he once again threatened to take the game away. However, Ferguson's second spell is what titled the game in the hosts' favour.
The pacer caught Thisara Perera by surprise digging one short which the left-hander could only mistime straight to long off for a 24-ball 43 that included two fours and a six. Ferguson then left Dhananjaya de Silva's stumps in a mess with a 147 kph thunderbolt in the same over to leave Sri Lanka tottering.
Sodhi then picked up the last two wickets to spark celebrations in the New Zealand camp.
Doug Bracewellish sodhikusal pereralakshan sandakanLasith MalingaLockie FergusonNew Zealand vs Sri Lanka 2018Scott KuggeleijnThisara Perera
First Published: January 11, 2019, 3:09 PM IST