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Published: Sunday, August 5, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
Colombo: Sri Lanka recovered from early blows to pull off a thrilling five-wicket victory over New Zealand in the triangular One-day cricket series on Wednesday.[an error occurred while processing this directive]Sri Lanka, chasing 237 off its allotted 50 overs, was reduced to 27 for four before bouncing back through Marvan Atapattu (66), man-of-the-match Russel Arnold (91 not out) and Suresh Perera (56 not out) to win with nine balls to spare in fading light.The hosts have won all of their three matches and New Zealand one. India, who will meet New Zealand on Thursday, has yet to open its account. Atapattu, who scored his 33rd half-century, revived Sri Lanka's hopes with a 110-run stand for the fifth wicket with Arnold, who struck seven fours in his 116-ball knock for his 11th half-century.Perera then completed the job with Arnold, sharing an unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of 103 off 88 balls. Perera, batting with a runner (Mahela Jayawardene) due to a strained right thigh, struck six boundaries in his quick fire 51-ball knock for his maiden half-century in 14 matches.Sri Lanka suffered a major setback when Atapattu was run out in the 34th over coming for the second run. He made a desperate dive to beat a Lou Vincent throw from the deep, but could not ground his bat. Sri Lanka, however, found a hard-hitting batsman in Perera who continued to grow in confidence with each run. His late blitz eventually helped his team successfully chase the highest total of the tournament.New Zealand was indebted to opener Nathan Astle for posting a challenging total. Astle scored a solid 54 with the help of six fours and one six in his 27th half-century after acting-captain Craig McMillan had won the toss and elected to bat on a slow turning wicket.New Zealand went into the match without skipper Stephen Fleming and all-rounder Dion Nash, who were laid low with stomach upsets. They hardly felt their absence in the initial overs when they took four quick wickets.Medium-pacer Kyle Mills and Darryl Tuffey bowled disciplined opening spells in overcast conditions to make Sri Lanka batsmen struggle for runs.Mills dismissed in-form opener Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana in his opening over.New Zealand's fielding initially matched its bowling. Chris Harris took a brilliant catch at point to account for left-handed opener Avishka Gunawardene off Tuffey.One ball later, Matthew Sinclair ran Jayawardene out with a direct hit to the non-striker's end from the covers. In contrast, the New Zealand batting flourished in the opening 15 overs.Astle and Sinclair put on 70 in less than 14 overs, the first half-century stand for the opening wicket in the tournament.McMillan (38), Lou Vincent (30) and wicket-keeper-batsman Adam Parore (37 not out) then built on the start provided by Astle. Off spinner Muthiah Muralitharan was always difficult to score off, conceding 31 in his 10 overs. Kumar Dharmasena and Arnold finished with three and two wickets, respectively. But none of the Sri Lankan medium-pacers could trouble Astle, who cut and drove firmly.Astle, who scored a superb 117 against India in his team's previous match on Friday, batted boldly and did not hesitate to hit over the top early in the innings to keep pressure on the home team.It was part-time off spinner Arnold who ended Astle's knock with his first delivery. The opener tried to cut, but missed the line and was bowled. Astle had previously offered one chance on 14 when medium-pacer Perera failed to hold a return catch.