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Guptill & Neesham Star in High Scoring Win in Series Opener against Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka put up a valiant fight led by an 85-ball 102 from Kusal Perera and a half-century from Niroshan Dickwella, but in the end were bowled out for 326 with Neesham shining with the ball as well.

Cricketnext Staff |January 3, 2019, 6:06 PM IST
Guptill & Neesham Star in High Scoring Win in Series Opener against Sri Lanka

A belligerent 138 on return from Martin Guptill backed up by a superlative all-round show by James Neesham helped New Zealand trump a spirited Sri Lanka by 45 runs in the first One-Day International at Mount Maunganui on Thursday (January 3).

Playing his first international in over nine months, Guptill had admitted to some rustiness going into the first ODI. Far from it, the 34-year-old looked as fluent as ever to bring up his 14th century in the 50-over format. James Neesham then piled on Sri Lanka's misery cracking 47 in just 13 balls which included five sixes in one over of Thisara Perera to take the hosts to a mammoth 371/7.

In reply, Sri Lanka put up a valiant fight led by an 85-ball 102 from Kusal Perera and a half-century from Niroshan Dickwella, but in the end were bowled out for 326 with Neesham shining with the ball as well.

Electing to bat first on a glorious day at Bay Oval, Colin Munro was up and about immediately first punching Nuwan Pradeep for a cracking cover drive to get his boundary counter running and then smashing Lasith Malinga over the deep midwicket fence for a maximum. However, that was all he could manage on the day as the Sri Lankan captain soon had his revenge deceiving Munro with a trademark slower delivery for 13 which flew off the left-hander's leading edge and into the hands of Lakshan Sandakan at point.

Kane Williamson started off his innings with the most glorious cover drive as the runs started to flow for the hosts. Pradeep was hammered for three fours in an over by Guptill with both batsmen looking set for the long haul.

Guptill soon brought up his half-century in just 54 balls reaching the landmark with a mighty six over extra cover off leg-spinner Seekuge Prasanna. The six also brought up New Zealand's 100 in the 18th over. It didn't take long for Williamson too to reach his 34th ODI half-century at his home ground with the most effortless of flicks against Sandakan.

The New Zealand captain struck two more crisp boundaries off Danushka Gunathilaka to move into the 70s and just when it seemed a hundred was for the taking, he fell to an innocuous delivery off Pradeep. The pacer back for his second spell sent a shortish length delivery just outside off and Williamson looking to dab it down to third man could only chop it back onto his stumps for a 74-ball 76. He threw his head back in disgust but the 163-run stand between him and Guptill had set New Zealand a fantastic platform.

(Image Credits: AFP) (Image Credits: AFP)

Ross Taylor then joined his good mate Guptill in the middle and the duo made sure none of the momentum was lost. Guptill reached his century with a flashing drive off Prasanna, taking 111 balls to mark a romping comeback into New Zealand colours.

Both batsmen upped the ante post Guptill's century. While the opener feasted on spinners, Sandakan and Prasanna, Taylor tore apart Pradeep carting him two sixes and a four in the 41st over. However, both fell in a span of three overs to provide Sri Lanka some relief.

Thisara Perera first brought a halt to the 88-run stand with the wicket of Guptill inducing a leading edge for Sandakan to take a simple catch at point. The opener's 139-ball knock was laced with 11 fours and five massive sixes. Taylor then fell soon too for a 37-ball 54 as the visitors pegged things back. Henry Nicholls (15) and Tim Seifert (11), on debut, too fell in quick succession and it seemed at the stage that Sri Lanka would restrict the hosts below the 340-run mark.

Neesham though had other ideas. The left-hander made a mockery of Thisara Perera's figures carting the pacer for 34 runs in the penultimate over of the innings. He slammed the first ball straight back over the bowler's head while the next three disappeared over the leg side fence. A waist-high no-ball was followed by another six as Neesham made it five sixes of five legal deliveries. He had a chance to make it six out of six but managed just a single off the last ball.

Chasing 372 was always going to be a tough ask but Sri Lanka, courtesy Dickwella and Gunathilaka, got off to a glorious start. The duo added 119 runs for the opening wicket with the former in particular, looking as fluent as ever.

Dickwella got going in trademark fashion bringing out his full repertoire of strokes which included scoops, ramps and the most unorthodox pulls even as Gunathilaka struggled with his timing. Dickwella raised his half-century off just 33 balls as Sri Lanka brought up their 100 in the 15th over

((Image Credits: AFP) (Image Credits: AFP)

With Williamson having seen his front-line bowlers carted for runs he needed someone to step up and throttle the scoring rate. Neesham did one better as he got rid of both set openers in consecutive overs. He first had Gunathilaka strangled down leg for 43 and then got rid of the dangerous Dickwella for a 50-ball 76 which included eight fours and three sixes.

At 126/2, Sri Lanka needed some rebuilding and the free-flowing Kusal Perera made sure things never went out of hand. He cracked pacer Lockie Ferguson for two fours and then meted out the same treatment to Mark Henry to keep the momentum going. Even the quick wickets of Kusal Mendis and (18) and Dinesh Chandimal (10) left him unfazed as he went about his business with aplomb.

While Sri Lanka kept losing wickets at one end, Kusal Perera kept going at the other and soon brought up his fourth ODI century with back-to-back fours off Henry. However, once he fell for 102 (85 balls), the writing was on the wall for the visitors. None of the other batsmen could show the same resilience as the New Zealand bowlers closed the proceedings in the 49th over.

Neesham proved his worth with the ball as well and was by far the best bowler on the day picking up 3/38 in his eight overs. Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, Ferguson and Trent Boult all chipped in with two wickets as well.

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