Sri Lanka ended their tour of New Zealand without a win as they suffered a deflating 35-run defeat in the standalone Twenty20 at Eden Park.
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The tourists – beaten in the preceding Test and ODI series – restricted New Zealand to 179-7 but failed to knock off the runs despite Thisara Perera’s 43 off 23 deliveries, closing on 144 off 16.5 overs.
Lasith Malinga’s side, featuring five changes, had earlier looked well-set for a morale-boosting win as New Zealand collapsed to 27-4, then 55-5, but a 47-run stand between Ross Taylor (33 off 37 balls) and the recalled Doug Bracewell (44 off 26) turned the tide.
Opener Martin Guptill miscued skipper Malinga (2-24) to mid-on in the first over and Tim Seifert, batting at three in place of the rested Kane Williamson, was easily caught off a leading edge off the bowling of Kasun Rajitha (3-44).
Henry Nicholls dragged Malinga on as he looked to drive and Colin Munro miscued a pull to leave the Black Caps up against it before Mitchell Santner (13), playing his first match since March due to knee surgery, stopped the rot with Taylor.
New Zealand’s momentum continued to grow as Taylor and Bracewell home hopes of posting at least 150 – the latter easily surpassing his previous best of 21 as he struck five sixes.
Debutant Scott Kuggeleijn (35no off 15) provided the late fireworks with four maximums while Bracewell was only denied a fifty by a fine diving catch at long-off by Dhananjaya de Silva.
Sri Lanka also lost a wicket early on as Sadeera Samarawickrama played his first ball of the tour onto the stumps after Niroshan Dickwella had started the chase with a six and four off Lockie Ferguson’s opening two deliveries.
The runs continued to flow as Kusal Perera (23 off 12 balls) plundered 18 off Tim Southee’s first over – the scoreboard reading 29-1 off two overs.
Two wickets in five balls put the game back in the balance – Kusal Perera chipping a Kuggeleijn yorker tamely to mid-on and Seifert sprinting to take a fine tumbling catch after Dickwella top-edged Bracewell.
Thisara Perera struck three sixes in total as the fourth wicket added 49 before Kusal Mendis (17) clothed a Southee slower ball to Kuggeleijn at mid-off leaving Sri Lanka 95-4 at the halfway stage.
Ferguson struck the telling blow when Perera miscued a short ball to Bracewell at long on – Sri Lanka’s resolve fading quickly.