Bengaluru, Nov 9: Having begun their World Cup campaign with a bang, and then a few surprising upsets, New Zealand's dream to have an easy entry into the semi-final, definitely became tricky.
The Kiwis were desperate for a huge win against injury-hit Sri Lanka in their last league match of the ICC ODI World Cup 2023 at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, here on Thursday.
With weatherman predicting rain may play spoilsport during the match, winning the toss New Zealand had no hesitation in asking Sri Lanka to bat first.
That of course enabled them to have a look at the weather and the DLS chart (if the need arises) and bat as per plan in the second innings.
Opting to bowl first, New Zealand bowlers were supreme once again and perhaps regained their rhythm after being bit unimpressive in the previous few outings.
Asked to bat first, Sri Lanka were bundled out for a paltry 171 in 46.4 overs against the Black Caps in the 41st match of the tournament, here.
Opener Kusal Perera showed some resilience and scored a fighting half century amid regular fall of wickets at the other end.
Top order batters Pathum Nissanka (2), Kusal Mendis (6), Sadeera Samarawickrama (1) and Charith Asalanka (8) fell in quick succession, unable to withstand the lethal Kiwis new ball attack.
Seasoned Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson were superb with their opening spells making the whit-ball move in either ways. That definitely made life difficult for Sri Lanka top order.
Unable to negotiate the New Zealand pacers, Lankan batsmen appeared helpless and clueless. Later, inspired by their pacers trio , l Kiwis spinners too joined the party and grabbed a few scalps.
Opener Kusal Perera, after scoring 51 amidst ruins at the other end, too departed. Perera was removed by Lockie Ferguson, who replaced Southee as the first change bowler.
Angelo Mathews, who became part of the record books in Sri Lanka's previous match against Bangladesh by becoming the first batsman in international cricket history to be given 'Timed Out', did put up a brief fight on Thursday against the Black Caps.
But Mathews, went back after contributing only 16. He felt prey to New Zealand's spin spearhead Mitchell Santner.
Dhananjaya de Silva (19) was also claimed by Santner, as Lanka were reeling at 105/7 in just 18.3 overs.
Lockie Ferguson compounded Lanka's worries as he sent back Chamika Karunaratne for 6.
Dushmantha Chameera played 20 balls and scored 1, before he was out caught by Boult of part time spinner Rachin Ravindra.
All-rounder Maheesh Theekshana along with Dilshan Madushanka did succeed in delaying the proceedings and the eventuality. Both shared 43 runs partnership for the last wicket, before Ravindra claimed Madushanka caught by wicket-keeper Tom Latham for 19.
But the last pair played together 14.3 overs, which was significant from Lanka's point of view. Theekshana remained not out on 38.
For the Kiwis, Trent Boult 3/37 topped the bowling chart. Tim Southee got one, while Ferguson, Santner and Ravindra claimed a couple of wickets each.
The Black Caps desperately need a victory in their last league match against Sri Lanka to keep their semi-final hopes alive.
The Lankans on the contrary are already out of the semi race with only two wins form their last eight encounters in the tournament.