New Zealand have returned to their winning ways at the Cricket World Cup following a four-match slump as they defeated Sri Lanka by five wickets at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru and all but secured their place in the semifinals.
Opening batsmen Devon Conway (45) and Rachin Ravindra (42) got fourth-placed New Zealand’s chase of 172 off to a fast start, and Daryl Mitchell (43) took them close before they crossed the finish line in 23.2 overs on Thursday.
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Victory left New Zealand on 10 points – in pole position to claim the last semifinal spot and join India, South Africa and Australia. Pakistan will now need to beat England by an almost impossible margin to leapfrog New Zealand on net run rate.
Afghanistan, who also had slim hopes of qualifying for the knockouts, find themselves in a similar position as their Asian neighbours before their clash with South Africa.
“Really good performance,” New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson said. “The early wickets and spin was a challenge through those middle overs. The pitch really slowed down later.
“The guys showed some good intent later with the chase, so great performance overall. We thought there was going to be some weather later, but there wasn’t any. Hard to read such things.”
Earlier, seamer Trent Boult and off-spinner Mitchell Santner landed timely blows as Sri Lanka limped to 171 all out after an early blitz by Kusal Perera (51) and a defiant late effort by Maheesh Theekshana (38 not out).
“Nice to get a bit of success at the top. A must-win game, the pleasure is about getting the result,” said man-of-the-match Boult, who went past 600 international wickets.
Barring an unlikely miracle in Pakistan’s last game, New Zealand will take on hosts India in the first semifinal in Mumbai on Wednesday while South Africa will play Australia in the second semi in Kolkata on November 16.
“Everyone wants a piece of the strong home nation,” Boult said. “We’re looking forward to it. It’ll be exciting to face India in the semifinals. They’re playing phenomenal cricket.”
Williamson’s decision to bowl after winning the toss paid off early as Boult (3-37) and Tim Southee (1-52) tore through the Sri Lanka top order to leave them in some trouble at 32-3 inside five overs.
Perera, who was dropped on zero by Tom Latham in the second over, punished New Zealand with a 22-ball fifty but lost another partner when Boult trapped Charith Asalanka LBW to turn up the heat on the 1996 champions.
A fit-again Lockie Ferguson (2-35) struck in his second over to dismiss the aggressive Perera as Sri Lanka collapsed to 70-5 and eventually folded in the 47th over for a modest total after Santner (2-22) and Ravindra (2-21) joined the party.
Santner curtailed Sri Lanka during a crucial phase of the innings and removed Angelo Mathews (16) and Dhananjaya de Silva (19) before Theekshana and Dilshan Madushanka (19) frustrated New Zealand with a 10th-wicket stand of 43.
Sri Lanka’s hopes of securing qualification for the 2025 Champions Trophy were dealt a blow. They needed a win to boost their chances of finishing in the top eight at the World Cup but finished ninth after completing nine league games.
Sri Lanka are equal on four points with England, Bangladesh and the Netherlands but are ahead of the Dutch only on run rate and will now depend on the last matches of those three sides to qualify.
The top eight teams in this World Cup – including hosts Pakistan – will qualify for the Champions Trophy.
“In the first 10 overs, we lost three, four wickets and struggled with the bat,” Sri Lanka captain Kusal Mendis said.
“If we had a good partnership in the middle overs, we could have had 300-plus on this wicket.”