New Zealand carve through Sri Lanka as only Karunaratne offers resistance
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne became only the second batsman in World Cup history to carry his bat through a completed innings.
New Zealand showed the value of winning a good toss by bowling out Sri Lanka for 136 in their World Cup clash at Cardiff.
Black Caps skipper Kane Williamson had no hesitation in asking Sri Lanka to bat on a greenish Sophia Gardens surface and with favourable overhead conditions to exploit in the opening hour.
It was the toughest of examinations for a fragile Sri Lanka side who have lost nine of their last 10 one-day international series, and only captain Dimuth Karunaratne was up to the task.
Karunaratne made an unbeaten 52 from 84 balls and, in doing so, became only the second batsman in World Cup history to carry his bat through a completed innings.
The feat had previously been achieved by the West Indies’ Ridley Jacobs, who made an unbeaten 49 against Australia at Old Trafford in 1999.
New Zealand chose not to risk Tim Southee because of a nagging calf complaint, but their strong seam suit is just one of the reasons why they wear the perennial tag of World Cup dark horses.
Matt Henry stepped in for Southee and took three for 29 in an opening seven-over burst, removing Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis in successive balls and just missing out on becoming the first New Zealander to take a World Cup hat-trick.
Sri Lanka must have feared the worst when Trent Boult, who has taken more wickets than any other seamer since the 2015 World Cup, ran up to bowl with three men in the slip cordon.
It was a field that belonged more to Test cricket than an ODI arena, but it was Henry who zipped the ball around to make early inroads into the Sri Lanka batting.
Lahiru Thirimanne fell upon review to the second ball of the innings, Henry winning his lbw appeal as replays showed the ball to be pitching on leg stump.
Karunaratne was fortunate to survive on nine when he nearly chopped on. The ball brushed the stumps but the bails, not for the first time in this tournament, failed to come off the groove.
Kusal Perera struck an entertaining 24-ball 29 before offering Colin de Grandhomme a skied catch behind the bowler, and Henry struck again instantly for Martin Guptill to brilliantly accept a low chance at second slip.
Sri Lanka’s troubles continued as Dhanajaya de Silva fell lbw to Lockie Ferguson, while Angelo Matthews edged De Grandhomme to wicketkeeper Tom Latham.
When Jeevan Mendis became Ferguson’s second victim to a sharp Jimmy Neesham catch, Sri Lanka had lost five wickets for 14 runs in 44 balls and were in total disarray.
Sri Lanka were given some encouragement by the muscular approach of Thisara Perera, who had smashed 140 off 69 balls against New Zealand in January.
Perera struck 27 off 23 balls, including two huge sixes, before holing out to spinner Mitchell Santner.
His seventh-wicket partnership with Karunaratne was worth 52 but the opener lost another partner when Isuru Udana chipped Neesham to Henry at mid-on without scoring.
Boult and Ferguson, who finished with three for 22, mopped up the Sri Lanka tail as Karunaratne – who survived a third umpire inspection over a boundary catch on 51 – took his place in World Cup history.