Bloemfontein: New Zealand can still win the World Cup despite losing the opening match to Sri Lanka, captain Stephen Fleming said on Tuesday. The Kiwis crashed to a 47-run defeat here on Monday and with a forfeited game against Kenya on the cards, Fleming's men may already have conceded eight valuable points in Group 'B'.
"This loss is not the end of our campaign by any means," the captain stressed. New Zealand Cricket (NZC) announced last month it will not go to Nairobi to play Kenya on February 21 due to security concerns and wanted the match shifted to South Africa. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has so far refused to take the game out of the Kenyan capital, but Fleming said a final decision was yet to be made.
"The match is still 11 days away and our board is watching the situation very carefully," Fleming said. Sri Lanka dominated what was expected to be a close tussle. Skipper Sanath Jayasuriya, given first use of a slow wicket, smashed 120 off 125 balls to lift his team to 272-7 from 50 overs. New Zealand managed only 225 in reply despite a magnificent 141 off 125 balls by Scott Styris which contained three boundaries and six sixes.
Fleming admitted he had read the wicket wrong when he asked Sri Lanka to take first strike. "It was slower than we expected which surprised me," he said. "We lost our way at the start of the innings. Styris was superb today, but Jayasuriya took the game away from us." While New Zealand ponders its future, Sri Lanka can look forward to the rest of the preliminary league with confidence after enjoying a slice of luck at the start. Jayasuriya's match-winning knock happened only because English umpire Neil Mallender turned down a confident appeal for a catch at the wicket early in the innings.
Television replays showed the delivery from Daryl Tuffey had taken the edge of the bat before carrying to wicket-keeper Lou Vincent. By the time Mallender ruled Jayasuriya leg before to Nathan Astle in the 35th over, the Sri Lankan had taken 15 fours off the frustrated Kiwis to lift the score to 193-2. "It was not a typical Sanath innings, he was more patient," said Sri Lankan coach Dave Whatmore.
"When he scores, we win more often than not and I am exceptionally pleased with his performance." New Zealand next play the West Indies, who stunned hosts South Africa in Sunday's World Cup opener in Cape Town, at Port Elizabeth on Thursday. Sri Lanka's next opponents will be lowly Bangladesh at Pietermaritzburg on Friday.