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World Cup: Kiwis thump Sri Lanka, on the verge of a semi-final versus India | Cricket


World Cup: Kiwis thump Sri Lanka, on the verge of a semi-final versus India | Cricket


First, the permutations. A five-wicket win over Sri Lanka with 160 balls to spare means New Zealand now have 10 points and a net run rate of 0.743. They are fourth in the points table with a semi-final berth all but sealed. It appears almost impossible for their closest rivals to leapfrog them. Pakistan need to beat England by 287 runs or chase 150 in 3.4 overs on Saturday. Afghanistan now need an even more impossible 438-run win against South Africa.

Chamika Karunaratne (R) greets New Zealand's Tom Latham after their win at the end of the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match (AFP)
Chamika Karunaratne (R) greets New Zealand’s Tom Latham after their win at the end of the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match (AFP)

New Zealand meeting India in the semi-finals in a repeat of 2019, thus, seems a likely and quite deserved match-up from hereon. “Really good performance,” New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson summed up their performance at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday. “The early wickets and spin was a challenge through those middle overs. The pitch really slowed down later. The guys showed some good intent later with the chase, so great performance overall. We thought there was going to be some weather later but there wasn’t any. Hard to read such things.”

Finally at full strength, New Zealand reviving their campaign was on the cards even though the win should have ideally come earlier. A ninth place finish — for now — seems bad enough but there are graver implications for Sri Lanka after signing off with their seventh defeat in the World Cup. Qualification for the 2025 Champions Trophy is at stake and for that they need either England or Bangladesh to lose heavily along with Netherlands for a favourable net run rate. This, coming from a side that had reached the final the last time the World Cup was held in India.

When asked what ails Sri Lanka, coach Chris Silverwood — his job is on the line — pointed out their inconsistency. “I think it would be fair to use that word,” he said at the post-match press conference. “We’ve played some good cricket along the way and I think we’ll look back on certain games and rue missed opportunities, to be honest. There have been certain games during this campaign that if we’d have taken the opportunities that were put our way, this could have looked a lot different. But the fact is that we have been inconsistent and it’s something that we’ve been working on for a long time and something we need to continue working on. So, yeah, I think inconsistent is a word we can use.”

On one of the best pitches to bat on in this tournament, Sri Lanka approached the match seeking only to chase. So, when put in to bat they just couldn’t turn on their aggregator mode. Opener Pathum Nissanka edged a drive in the second over, Kusal Mendis flayed at a leaving delivery but not hard enough to clear third man, Sadeera Samarawickrama edged to first slip, Charith Asalanka was trapped leg before and Kusal Perera speared a good length ball — all within the first 10 overs. Maheesh Theekshana played out 91 deliveries to delay the inevitable and had company from last man Dilshan Madushanka, who stood guard for 48 deliveries. But from 70/5 to 171 all out, Sri Lanka’s batting bore a resistance that came too little, too late.

New Zealand too ought to have done a better job of wrapping up the win after openers Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra had set them up with an 86-run stand. But one wicket led to two, and then the run out of Mark Chapman after a mix-up with Daryl Mitchell made Sri Lanka look happy, to at least make New Zealand sweat for full points. The winning runs finally came off the bat of Glenn Phillips, who hit two consecutive boundaries to remain 17*, New Zealand romping home before Bengaluru’s unpredictable rain could have threatened to play spoilsport.


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