The Black Caps returned to winning ways in the Cricket World Cup after a four-match slump as they defeated Sri Lanka by five wickets at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and just missed out on their place in the semi-finals.
With batsmen Devon Conway (45) and Rachin Ravindra (42) starting, New Zealand’s fourth over of 172 took a quick lead and Daryl Mitchell (43) brought them close before they crossed the finish line in 23.2 overs.
The win left New Zealand on 10 points – in pole position to claim the final semi-final spot and join India, South Africa and Australia. Pakistan will now have to beat England by an almost impossible margin to leapfrog New Zealand on the current run-rate.
Afghanistan, who also had narrow hopes of qualifying for the knockouts, find themselves in a similar position to their Asian neighbors before their clash with South Africa.
“A very good performance,” said New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson. “The early wickets and spin through those finals were a challenge.
“The guys showed some good intentions later on with the chase, a great performance overall. We thought there would be some weather later but there wasn’t any. It’s hard to read things like that.”
Earlier, seamer Trent Boult and spinner Mitchell Santner landed timely blows as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 171 after an early blitz from Kusal Perera (51) and a defiant late effort by Maheesh Theekshana (38 not out).
“It’s nice to get a bit of success at the top. A game that’s not a big win, it’s the satisfaction of getting the result,” said man-of-the-match Boult, who passed 600 international wickets.
Barring an unlikely miracle in Pakistan’s last match, New Zealand will face India in the semi-finals.
“Everyone wants a piece of a strong home nation,” said Boult. “We are really looking forward to it. It will be exciting to face India in the semi-finals. They are playing great cricket.”
Williamson’s decision to bowl after winning the toss early paid off, with Boult (3-37) and Tim Southee (1-52) tearing through Sri Lanka’s top to leave them in trouble at 32-3 inside five rear.
Perera, who was dropped for a wicket by Tom Latham in the second match, punished New Zealand with a 22-ball fifty but lost another party when Boult caught Charith Asalanka lbw to take the heat on the 1996 champions.
Lockie Ferguson (2-35) struck again in the second over to dismiss the aggressive Perera as Sri Lanka slumped to 70-5 and finally returned in the 47th over for a modest total after Santner (2-22) and Ravindra ( 2-21) into the party.
Santner reduced Sri Lanka during a crucial phase of the innings and removed Angelo Mathews (16) and Dhananjaya de Silva (19) before Theekshana and Dilshan Madushanka (19) thwarted New Zealand with a 10th wicket stand of 43.
“In the first 10 overs, we lost three-four wickets and struggled with the bat,” said Sri Lankan captain Kusal Mendis, after his side fell to ninth.
“If we had a good partnership in the finals, we could have over 300 years on this bucket.”
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