New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by four wickets with one ball remaining in the third T20 international Saturday to win the series 2-1 after opener Tim Seifert led its run-chase for the second match in a row.
Seifert made 88 from 48 balls and New Zealand passed Sri Lanka’s 182-6 in the last over. He made 79 from 43 balls when New Zealand won the second match by nine wickets after Sri Lanka won the first in a Super Over.
Kusal Mendis also paced Sri Lanka’s innings from the top of the order, making 73 from 48 balls. He had support throughout the innings from Pathum Nissanka (24) with whom he put on 76 in 9.3 overs overs for the first wicket, Kusal Perera (33), whose run out in the 17th over might have cost Sri Lanka a bigger total, and Dhananjaya de Silva (20).
Queenstown’s Sir John Davies Oval became the world’s newest T20 international venue and provided not just a picturesque backdrop but a superb and competitive pitch which was unused and provided pace and bounce. Both Mendis and Seifert were able to turn that to advantage after weathering the risky early moments of both innings when full deliveries swung and short balls pinged through. Mendis hit six fours and five sixes, Seifert 10 fours and three sixes.
Seifert put on 53 for New Zealand’s first wicket with Chad Bowes and 84 from 52 balls for the second with captain Tom Latham who made 31.
At 85, he passed his previous highest score in T20 internationals but he was out soon afterwards, remonstrating with himself for letting a T20 century slip through his grasp. He had played the cut shot or back foot drive frequently and well but he reached for a ball well wide of off stump, mis-timed his shot and was caught by Kasun Rajitha at cover from the bowling of Pramod Madushan.
Sri Lanka made 182-6 after being sent into bat.
“We thought 180 was a good score that they put on so we knew we had to get off to a good start and we managed to get across the line,” Seifert said. “We got ahead of the run rate and you don’t want to get too far behind so you have to play catch-up. Tom (Latham) came in and played his role and we managed to kick on from there.”
New Zealand was 153-4 when Seifert was out, still needing 30 runs from 23 balls. The innings lost most of its momentum on his departure as Daryl Mitchell and Mark Chapman were at the crease and Sri Lanka’s bowlers contained them with a mixture of yorkers and slower balls.
The Black Caps needed 17 off the last two overs with seven wickets in hand and, after a good over from Madushan, needed 10 from the last over. That turned into on ordeal as three wickets fell.
Chapman hit the first ball of the over, an anticipated slow ball, for six and was out when he skied the next and was caught. Jimmy Neesham came to the crease and was run out from a wide without facing a ball.
New Zealand needed three from four balls with five wickets in hand. Mitchell (15) skied the next and was caught; New Zealand had lost three wickets to consecutive balls — not a hat trick because of the run out — and then needed three from three with four wickets remaining.
Rachin Ravindra and Adam Milne scampered through for a risky single, leaving two from two and finally Ravindra found a gap in the field, the batters ran two and New Zealand got home with one ball remaining.
“It was obviously nice to get the result today,” Latham said. “Bowling first they put us under a little bit of pressure and it was good to see the way the guys responded to that. The way we pulled it back those last five overs to get the total just below par was great.”
Sri Lanka leaves New Zealand after also losing the 2-Test series 2-0 and the three-match ODI series 2-0 with a washed-out game
New Zealand now travels to Pakistan this week, where the Black Caps will play five Twenty20 matches and five ODIs over the rest of April and into the first week of May. The first T20 is next Saturday in Lahore.