Innings: New Zealand 364 for 4 (Taylor 137, Nicholls 124*, Malinga 3093) against Sri Lanka
Once again New Zealand put on big stands in the middle overs to recover emphatically from early blows. Yet again, Ross Taylor produced an outstanding ODI innings to extend his sublime run of form. And once more New Zealand exploded at the death, centurion Henry Nicholls dealing the big blows this time, to mount another daunting score, surging to 364 for 4.
Taylor arrived at the crease with the score on 31 for 2, and his two century stands on his way to 137 from 131, formed the body of this New Zealand innings. He and Kane Williamson made 116 off 130 balls, before Henry Nicholls joined him to hit 154 off 120. This time, Sri Lanka played four specialist bowlers, bringing in Dushmantha Chameera in place of an allrounder, and yet, could not find those precious middle-overs wickets, and were unable to restrict a well-set opposition at the death. New Zealand plundered 130 runs for the loss of just Taylor in the final 10 overs – Nicholls hitting seven fours and three sixes to reap 76 in that period.
As the pitch in Nelson offered more to the seam bowlers early on than the Mt. Maunganui track had done, and given the fact that Sri Lanka had won the toss this time, this was probably New Zealand’s best batting performance of the series. With even Malinga – who claimed three of the four wickets – going at more than nine an over, it was perhaps Sri Lanka’s worst outing with the ball.
Taylor had begun with a little fortune, almost running himself out second ball attempting a quick single to mid off – Thisara Perera missing the stumps, when a direct hit would have caught Taylor short. Next over, Taylor almost played Nuwan Pradeep back onto his stumps as well. But eventually, he settled at the crease, scoring freely through the legside as Sri Lanka continued to bowl to straight to him, and he and Williamson set about establishing control of the game. Where Taylor was strong square of the wicket, Williamson prospered down the ground, even once shuffling out of his crease to launch Lakshan Sandakan over wide long on for six. Sri Lanka’s bowlers never built up significant pressure on the pair – the boundaries coming too regularly, off Taylor’s bat in particular.
Eventually Williamson holed out to deep midwicket on 55 off 65, to give Sandakan his first wicket of the series, but by now, Taylor was an unshakeable presence at the crease. He had completed his sixth consecutive ODI fifty in the company of Williamson, and his partner’s departure prompted little reticence – Taylor crashing Chameera for successive fours early in the 35th over. He got to his 20th hundred off the 112th ball he faced, and with the slog overs now arrived, and only three wickets down, he surged after getting to triple figures. He took an especial liking to the bowling of Malinga, hoisting him for four sixes in the arc between long on and midwicket between the 41st and 45th overs. Taylor was eventually out attempting a fifth six – hitting Malinga into the hands of deep square leg.
Having arrived in the 27th over, Nicholls had the opportunity to build an innings, and with Taylor doing a lot of the legwork, was allowed the time to settle in and find his bearings. Once he was set, though, he became almost as comfortable as the senior partner. He, like Taylor, found plenty of boundaries on the legside, and took a special liking to Pradeep, off whom scored 41 runs off 16 balls. He reached his half century in the 41st over, and was unstoppable after Taylor’s dismissal, hitting 47 off the 18 balls he faced in the last five overs. He thumped Malinga over deep square leg for six to bring up his hundred, and finished on an outstanding 124 not out off 80 balls.
Sri Lanka had hoped Chameera would help take wickets through the middle overs, but unable to find much movement from the pitch, he proved to be ineffective, with Sandakan also proving largely modest through that period. The bowling effort, though, was not helped by the fact that the two most experienced bowlers often missed their lengths at the death. Between them, Malinga and Pradeep gave away 170 runs off 114 balls.