Bengaluru, Nov 9: New Zealand are almost through to the semifinals of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup after beating Sri Lanka by 5 wickets in their last league match at Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Thursday.
Afghanistan are virtually out of the competition, and Pakistan will have to come out with an extraordinary effort in the next match against England.
Chasing down 172 runs was never going to be a difficult task on a batting deck, and New Zealand brought to it with their fine bowling display by Trent Boult.
Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra started off nicely with Sri Lanka’s pace attack led by Dilshan Madushanka, the most successful bowler of this tournament.
Conway survived a close caught-behind call against Madushanka, but launched a counterattack, firing seven boundaries in no time.
Conway was happy to negotiate Sri Lankan pacers, and Rachin handled the spinners with aplomb, denying them the much-required breakthrough as the Kiwi openers were going great guns.
Both put on 86 for the first wicket in 12.2 overs, laying up the foundation for the Kiwis to chase down the target with ease.
The breakthrough came when Dushmantha Chameera had Conway (45 off 42, 9x4s) caught at mid-wicket in a maiden-wicket over.
Maheesh Theekshana snapped up Rachin (42 off 34, 3x4s 3x6s) next over as Sri Lanka finally found a way into the deep New Zealand middle-order.
However, Dary Mitchell countered by clubbing Dushmantha Chameera for a maximum and a boundary next over, and then wrapped it up with a reverse-sweep and a slog Maheesh Theekshana, signalling his aggressive intent.
Angelo Mathews gave Sri Lanka a ray of hope when he cleaned up Captain Kane Williamson in the 19th over to leave New Zealand at 130/3, but with less than fifty runs needed to cross over the mark, the fightback seemed too late.
But Sri Lanka snapped up a couple of wickets of Mark Chapman (7) who sacrificed his wicket, runout, after a miscommunication with Daryl Mitchell.
Mathews then bagged big fish Mitchell himself as New Zealand lost their top five, but by then the match was almost in the kitty of the Kiwis.
Glenn Phillips (17*) hit consecutive boundaries to seal the match as New Zealand strengthened their position in the top four of the points table.
Only a huge win for Pakistan or Afghanistan in their respective final clashes will see them miss out on a knockout spot.
Earlier, Sri Lanka were skittled for 171 in 46.4 overs.
Boult and Tim Southee ripped through the Sri Lanka top-order, with the former leading the attack, bagging 3/37 in 10 overs, and Southee picking up 1/52 in 8 overs.
Pacer Lockie Ferguson, and spinners Mitchell Santner and Rachin also were good, snaring up two wickets each.
Sri Lanka were 113/8 in 23.3 overs, but their tailenders put their foot down, especially Theekshana (38* off 91, 3x4s) and Madushanka (19 off 48, 2x4s), who frustrated New Zealand by pushing the innings deep into 46.4 overs.
Opener Kusal Perera (51 off 28, 9x4s 2x6s) was the top-scorer who cracked second fastest World Cup fifty off 22 balls for Sri Lanka, but could not capitalise on it to pilot his team’s innings further as he was hauled up by Ferguson.
An experienced Mathews (16 off 27, 2x4s) and Dhananjaya de Silva (19 off 24, 2x4s 1×6) provided some hope, but Santner bamboozled them with flight, turn and bounce.
Just as New Zealand thought their pacers would run through the rival’s innings, Sri Lanka’s lower-order exhibited gumption to add 58 runs for the final two wickets.
After the poor batting display, Sri Lanka would be hoping Madushanka, the highest wicket-taker of this tournament, to come good and extend his wickets from 21.
Earlier, Kane Williamson flipped the coin in New Zealand’s favour and asked Sri Lanka to bat first.
Southee sent back Pathum Nissanka for 2 in the second over of the match after he was dropped a ball before.
Perera was in his groove and played his shots freely despite the ball moving around. Luck was in his favour as Sri Lanka started off to a flier, scoring 30 runs in the first 4 overs.
Even after Boult removed Kusal Mendis (6) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (1) in the 5th over, Perera went about clobbering the ball. He bludgeoned Southee for 4 boundaries in an over and then added 2 more off Boult next over.
Boult continued to cause mayhem at the other end, sending back the centurion from the previous game, Charith Asalanka, for 8.
With Perera dismissed next over, Sri Lanka’s hopes fell flat and Santner’s double strike in quick succession firmly put the nail on Sri Lanka’s innings. (UNI)