MOUNT MAUNGANUI // Martin Guptill’s golden run of form continued on Tuesday with a century which lifted New Zealand to a 36-run win over Sri Lanka to clinch the five-match one-day series 3-1.
Guptill made 102 from 109 balls – his 10th one-day international century – to steer New Zealand to 294 for five as they batted first after losing the toss.
Sri Lanka’s hopes of a successful run chase soon evaporated when they staggered to three for 33 and were bowled out for 258.
Fast bowler Matt Henry took five for 40, snaring the top-order wickets of Danushka Gunathilaka and Lahiru Thirimanne to destabilize the Sri Lanka innings, then returning to snuff out any chance of a tail-end rally.
Captain Angelo Mathews kept alive Sri Lanka’s hopes a series-squaring win deep into the innings. With 10 overs to go it was 216 for five, needing 79 runs from the last 10 overs and, even with five overs remaining and at 249 for seven with Mathews still in full flow, the tourists were in with a chance.
But New Zealand stepped it up in the field in the last stages of the innings and stand-in captain Kane Williamson made shrewd use of his bowlers, fitting in two overs of his own part-time off-spin and using leg-spinner Ish Sodhi to good effect. Trent Boult, who returned to the New Zealand line-up after being rested through the first four matches of the series, took 3-43, finally snuffing out the Sri Lanka innings in the 48th over.
Mathews was caught on the boundary inches from a six and a century, scoring 95.
“It was great to improve from the last performance and the way the bowling unit stepped up...we needed to skin the cat another way and they did that very well today off the back of a superb knock from Martin Guptill,” Williamson said.
“It was probably not a bad toss to lose in the end. Today the surface probably stayed pretty similar throughout and, from our perspective, it was good to see how they bowled on it so we could try to execute our plans a little bit better.”
New Zealand seemed likely to score well in excess of 300 when Guptill shared partnerships of 122 for the second wicket and 81 for the third with Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, both of whom made 61. They were 152 for two after 30 overs but were contained in the second half of their innings by the Sri Lanka bowlers who made good use of yorkers and slower deliveries.
The pitch at Bay Oval was dry and hard but its slowness confounded strokemakers in both teams. New Zealand tried to accelerate late in their innings, to push their total through the 300 barrier but Luke Ronchi was constrained in his unbeaten 37 from 31 balls and it took Mitchell Santner’s six, four, six from the last three balls to get the hosts close to 300.
Guptill batted with care and patience, unlike his innings earlier in the series, particularly his memorable 93 off 30 balls in the second game.
Mathews ensured Sri Lanka stayed in the hunt until the late overs but the tourists never quite edged to top in a difficult chase.
“We kept losing wickets up front and if we had a good start we could have just knocked it around and we could have got to 300,” Mathews said. “But, unfortunately, the middle order had to rebuild and that was the turning point of the game.”
The teams now meet in two Twenty20 internationals.
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