New Zealand (137/0) beat Sri Lanka (136) by 10 wickets
There is a moment, before any sporting contest, where hope and opportunity triumph over all else. As Sri Lanka’s Lahiru Thirimanne deftly guided the first New Zealand delivery to the fine-leg boundary, those thoughts blossomed.
They lasted one ball, as Sri Lanka were blasted out and their total cantered down, the match in its entirety lasting just 45 overs.
New Zealand’s pace and swing had soon plucked five wickets for 14 runs and Sri Lanka’s World Cup prospects recalibrated to reality. The only one still believing was their captain, Dimuth Karunaratne, whose unbeaten 52 made him only the second in men’s World Cup history to carry his bat. Disgruntled Sri Lankan fans, those hopes dashed, even resorted to boos to escort their team from the field.
The Black Caps, who have so often been labelled the dark horses of this World Cup, demonstrated why there is nothing neither dark nor equine about them. West Indies may have blown away Pakistan on Friday, but New Zealand’s taking apart of Sri Lanka was done with a ruthless efficiency.
New Zealand’s squad, demonstrated by those playing, and performing, today, boasts the luxury of at least two genuine contenders for almost every position. This bodes well for a tournament format which will ultimately require both consistency and perseverance.
As is the beauty of this sport, there were moments of respite, almost light relief, to offer Cardiff’s sell-out crowd. Matt Henry’s hat-trick ball, as he ran in to the chorus of a crowd-constructed drum roll, was over-egged, over-pitched and sublimely carved back down the ground by Dhananjaya de Silva for the shot of the day.
A few overs later and Thisara Perera pummelled a short ball to mid-wicket for six. “The batsmen are playing too aggressively,” muttered a Sri Lankan voice in the press box. But the fans didn’t care; how could they? This, a rare moment of joy, was one to be celebrated in a testing period for Sri Lankan cricket.
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Henry, hit for a century by a West Indies batting onslaught just days ago, was the pick of a fine crop of New Zealand bowlers. He toppled three of Sri Lanka’s top four, while Lockie Ferguson demonstrated some vicious pace for three wickets of his own.
New Zealand’s openers Martin Guptill (73 not out) and Colin Munro (58 not out) wasted little time in the reply, chasing the miserly target in 16.1 overs. This included a mighty Guptill straight six, which sailed out of the stadium and into the river, to the delight of a crowd left in danger of being short-changed.
• A version of this article was originally printed in The Telegraph on 2 June 2019.