Sri Lanka won the first Twenty20 cricket international in a Super Over on Sunday after New Zealand tailender Ish Sodhi hit a six from the last ball of the 20th over to send the match into a tiebreaker. (More Cricket News)
The Sri Lankans made an imposing 196-5 batting first and New Zealand came to the last regular over needing 13 runs to win, six to tie.
Sodhi averages 9.6 in T20Is and had the huge responsibility of facing the last ball from Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka, who had bowled an outstanding over.
The delivery was full and angled into leg stump; Sodhi, with a swooping motion of bat, hoisted it over midwicket and into the stand for six, lifting New Zealand to 196-8 and sending the match to the Super Over.
New Zealand chose Daryl Mitchell, its top-scorer with 66, Jimmy Neesham and Mark Chapman as its batters while Sri Lanka called on Maheesh Theekshana to bowl. Neesham was also one of its chosen batters when it lost to England in the World Cup final at Lord's four years ago.
Mitchell took a single from the first ball, the second was a wide and Neesham was out to the third ball. Chapman hit a two, then a four and was bowled from the last ball as New Zealand managed only 8-2.
Kusal Mendis and Charith Asalanka were Sri Lanka's champions, chosen to bat and Jimmy Neesham to bowl. Asalanka was its top scorer with 67 from 41 balls which included six sixes, making him the ideal man for the Super Over.
Mendis took a single from the first ball, then Asalanka clubbed a six which passed through Chapman's hands on the boundary. Asalanka ramped the next ball as Sri Lanka reached 11-0 to clinch the a thrilling win. In an additional dramatic note, the match ended in light rain.
“It was a very nervous game and very exciting,” Asalanka said. “The two teams were playing very nicely and at the end it was our day.
“It's a little ground, the boundaries are small and I tried to hit boundaries. We know as a team that in T20 games we can hit plenty of boundaries with the right mindset.”
Earlier, Sri Lanka opener Pathaum Nissanka, a half century-maker in the third one-day international between the teams three days ago, was caught behind from the opening delivery bowled by Adam Milne.
Far from being deterred, Sri Lanka's under-pressure top order went on the offensive; Kusal Perera smashed 16 runs from the second over of the innings and Mendis hit two sixes and two fours as Sri Lanka took 22 runs from the third over.
That set the tone of the innings. Mendis slogged 25 runs from nine balls before his luck ran out but Perera went on to a half century from 39 balls and Asalanka posted a half century from 32 balls in a fast-paced innings which saw Sri Lanka reach 50 from only 3.4 overs.
New Zealand was in trouble early, losing Tim Seifert to the fourth ball of its innings and Chad Bowes three balls later when it was 3-2.
“Another great game of cricket here at Eden Park. It tends to produce plenty of thrillers,” said New Zealand captain Tom Latham, who was playing on his 31st birthday.
“Unfortunately we were just on the wrong side. I thought the way we were able to climb our way back towards the back end of our innings was outstanding and I think for Ish to hit that six was quite dramatic, but it wasn't meant to be.”