THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka paceman Lasith Malinga bowled his team to victory in a one-over eliminator against New Zealand in a sensational start to the Super Eights at the World Twenty20 on Thursday.
New Zealand needed 14 for victory in the eliminator after Sri Lanka had posted 13-1, but Malinga’s skiddy deliveries proved too difficult to score from and the Kiwis were restricted to 8-1.
During the regular 20-over stage, Sri Lanka needed only eight off the last over after New Zealand had scored 174-7. Lahiru Thirimane required a single off the final ball but was run out when New Zealand captain Ross Taylor dropped the ball on the stumps for the hosts to finish on 174-6.
"We have a win under the belt, so the pressure eases," Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene said. "Judging by Taylor’s reaction we thought we had won the match, but it needed a super over."
Tillakaratne Dilshan made 76 off 53 balls and Jaywardene hit 44 off 26 deliveries before New Zealand rallied. Dilshan was run out after hitting five fours and three sixes when 15 was needed to win and Thisara Perera was bowled by James Franklin in the penultimate over.
Sri Lanka looked to be heading toward easy victory when Dilshan and Jayawardene smashed 80 runs for the first wicket in just 44 balls.
But the departure of Jaywardene in the eighth over when he top-edged Jacob Oram to Daniel Vettori at fine leg and the run out of Kumar Sangakkara (21) four over later helped New Zealand to hit back.
Franklin brought the Kiwis back in the hunt with Sri Lanka needing 21 off the last two overs. Dilshan smashed Franklin’s low full toss for a six before being run out, while Perera was bowled after hitting a boundary.
"To lose tight matches is always disappointing, but from the situation we were in I thought we fought back very hard and never gave up," Taylor said. "I’m proud of the way we fought to the bitter end."
Earlier, opening batsman Rob Nicol hit a career-best 58 in New Zealand’s competitive total to better his previous best of 56 made against Zimbabwe at Hamilton earlier this year.
Nicol smashed three fours and four sixes from 40 balls, and was well supported by Martin Guptill with 38, Brendon Taylor with 25 and captain Ross Taylor with 23 after New Zealand had won the toss and elected to bat.
Sri Lanka spinner Ajantha Mendis recovered from side strain but was ineffective, taking 1-48. Nicol tarnished those figures by hitting three sixes in finger spinner’s last over. It was a below-par performance from Mendis after he had bested his own world record by claiming 6-8 against Zimbabwe in the first round.
Akila Dananjaya wasn’t seriously hurt when he was struck on the face while trying to catch Nicol off his own bowling. The 18-year-old offspinner on debut was hit hard on the cheek bone by the full-blooded drive. He was the best bowler with 2-32.
Guptill gave the Kiwis a decent start by putting on 57 with Nicol off 45 balls. Mendis was hammered for 10 runs in his first over as Guptill dominated the opening stand by hitting five boundaries in his 38.
Guptill could have been dismissed on 6 in seamer Nuwan Kulasekara’s second over, but Perera missed a two-handed catch over his head in only the third over.
Dananjaya made the breakthrough off only his third delivery in Twenty20 internationals, when Perera held Guptill’s lofted shot at mid-off.
Brendon McCullum, who hit the highest score in the Twenty20 format when he hit 123 off 72 balls against Bangladesh last week, smashed Dananjaya for two sixes before holing out in the deep off Mendis.
Dananjaya got his revenge when he had Nicol caught by Perera at deep midwicket, before Kulasekara struck twice late in the innings by bowling Taylor off a slower delivery and Jacob Oram was caught at long-off.
Defending champion England and West Indies are the other teams in Group 1.