There was glue in the wicket at the Brabourne Stadium on Friday. Not, however, in the New Zealand batting. The result was a comfortable seven-wicket victory for opponents Sri Lanka in a Champions Trophy Group B encounter.
All New Zealand put up after winning the toss was 165, that too due to a spirited 46 not out by No. 8 Daniel Vettori and an unruffled 42 earlier on by Nathan Astle. Sri Lanka reached the target in 36 overs. Upul Tharanga, the left-handed opener, was once again the architect of the successful chase. Tharanga made 56. Captain Mahela Jayawardene played himself in form with 48.
But the bigger role was essayed by Muttiah Muralitharan. The off-spin icon took four for 23 as Sri Lanka, helped by the listlessness of a majority of the New Zealand batsmen, asphyxiated them at 165.
The match was played on a pitch famously sprayed with Poly Vinyl Acetate (PVA), an industrial adhesive, so that it held firm over two innings. The wicket's unpredictable behaviour in the New Zealand-South Africa game had prompted the move. The treatment gave it a brushed appearance and decent, if sometimes inconsistent, bounce. Bowlers like Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka and New Zealand pace ace Shane Bond, playing his first One-day International since March, were able to extract some lift from the surface.
Group B is now open. Sri Lanka, who will be a bit concerned with the 25 extras they gifted on Friday, New Zealand and Pakistan each have two points, though Pakistan have played only one match yet compared to the two by Lanka and the Kiwis.
Sri Lanka were never tested during their chase, especially after openers Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya earned ten runs from the opening over by Kyle Mills and seven from the next by Bond. In the fourth over, sent down by Bond, Jayasuriya cracked a six, the first of the match, over extra cover. The 31-year-old Bond's spell was watched with curiosity. He scaled 140kmph, often beating the batsmen with pace. But he was inconsistent with line and length.
Earlier, Vettori put on 47 for the tenth wicket with off-spinner Jeetan Patel to help the Kiwis register a fighting if inadequate total. Patel made only 10. But he was around for 39 balls.
Playing with a spunk that seemed to have deserted their specialist batsmen, the two steered their team past 150 and gave their bowlers something to bowl at.
Final won’t be moved from CCI
Meanwhile, the ICC pitch consultant Andy Atkinson expressed satisfaction with the wicket and emphasised that the final would not be shifted to another venue.
“The objective was to ensure that the pitch holds for a 100 overs, I think we've achieved it,” Atkinson said.