Hosts New Zealand gave a good example of why they are one of the favourites for the World Cup as the hosts set up a scintillating batting performance by crushing Sri Lanka in the opening match by 98 runs. Sent into bat, New Zealand posted an imposing 331 for six with captain Brendon McCullum (65) and big-hitting Corey Anderson (75) as they took the Lankan bowlers to the cleaners.
In-form Kane Williamson chipped in with a useful 57 on a batting pitch at the Hagley Oval as the Black Caps seized control over the game. Chasing a solid target, Sri Lanka lost three key wickets, including those of Mahela Jayawardene (0) and Kumar Sangakkara (39), the 1996 champions were bundled out for 233 in 46.1 overs. Opener Lahiru Thirimanne was the lone batsman to offer any resistance with a fighting innings of 60-ball 65 while captain Angelo Mathews made 46 as Sri Lankan batting came a cropper.
The Lankan skipper’s decision to bowl first seemed spot on as there was light rain just after the toss and the start of the match was delayed by eight minutes but it all backfired as the Kiwi batsmen started off with a bang. McCullum, who hit 10 fours and a six in his 49-ball knock, and Martin Guptill (49) put on 111 runs for the opening wicket. But just when Sri Lanka were getting carried away, all-rounder Corey Anderson upped the ante for New Zealand with his 75 off 46 deliveries, which included eight fours and two sixes.
In reply, Sri Lanka made a careful start without losing early wickets but slurry of quick key wickets fell — that of Thirimanne, Jayawardene and Sangakkara as Sri Lanka lost the plot from there on. Veteran left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori was the hero for New Zealand as he had caught and bowled Tillakaratne Dilshan of his own bowling for 24 before pacer Trent Boult sent Thirimanne’s wickets haywire. That triggered a mini collapse as six balls later Vettori got the wicket of Jayawardene as wicketkeeper Ronchi gleefully snapped an outside edge.