New Zealand all-rounder James Neesham starred with both bat and ball in the first ODI to help his team secure a convincing 45-run victory over Sri Lanka at Mount Maunganui.
After winning the toss and electing to bat first, opener Martin Guptill and captain Kane Williamson took the attack to the Sri Lankan bowlers. They partnered for the second wicket and recorded a mammoth 163-run stand to frustrate the visiting team.
Guptill was at his destructive best as he reached his century off 111 balls before going on a full-blooded onslaught on his way to a near run-a-ball 138 runs that included 11 fours and five sixes.
New Zealand’s experienced players stepped up to the plate, with both Williamson and Ross Taylor raking in half-centuries, Williamson finishing with 76 off 74 balls (6×4) and Taylor knocking up a blistering 54 off 36 balls (6×4, 2×6).
Sri Lanka’s frontline pace attack – led and captained by Lasith Malinga, and including Nuwan Pradeep and Thisara Perera – were expensive throughout the innings, but each picked up two wickets as they tried to make inroads into New Zealand’s batting order.
It was the recalled James Neesham who added the gloss to the home team’s innings as he raced to 47 not out off only 13 deliveries with six sensational sixes – five of which came in a fateful over against Thisara Perera that had the home crowd on their feet. He also picked up 3-38 in the second innings and will be disappointed to have lost the Player of the Match accolade to Guptill.
The Black Caps managed to post an imposing 371-7 in their 50 overs on a fantastic batting wicket.
Sri Lanka made a valiant attempt at the run chase as the top order laid the platform for a successful chase.
The opening stand between Nirosham Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka yielded 119 runs before Neesham came into the attack and dismissed both openers for 76 off 50 balls (8×4, 3×6) and 43 off 62 balls (3×4) respectively.
Kusal Perera came in at No 3, but had to watch helplessly from the other end as the Sri Lankan wickets tumbled throughout the innings, with wickets seeming to fall every time the visitors appeared to be getting a grip on the match.
K Perera stuck to his guns and worked his way to his fourth ODI century with a well-played 102 off 86 balls, including 13 fours and one six.
The rest of the Sri Lankan batsmen failed to step up to the mark, and with a lack of middle and lower order contributions, the visitors fell 45 runs short of New Zealand’s imposing target.
New Zealand lead the three-match series 1-0, and the Sri Lankans will hope to improve on their batting and bowling displays in the second ODI at the same venue on Saturday.
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