MATCH REPORT: New Zealand vs Sri Lanka

In the first completed game of the 2017 World Cup, at Bristol, an 8th ODI century from Suzie Bates saw New Zealand comfortably chase down Sri Lanka’s total of 188 to win by 9 wickets in the space of 38 overs.

Skipper Bates (106*) was the epitome of “batting with intent”, driving Udeshika Prabodani’s first ball of the innings straight down the track for four, bringing up her half-century with a huge six over midwicket, and reaching 100 in the space of 107 balls.

While fellow opener Rachel Priest departed early - LBW trying to sweep Chandima Gunaratne for 2 - Amy Satterthwaite (78*) continued her recent excellent form in 50-over cricket, effortlessly reaching her own half-century and sharing a 170-run partnership with her captain.

Earlier, after New Zealand had won the toss and chosen to field, Player of the Match Holly Huddleston helped New Zealand restrict Sri Lanka to 188-9 across their 50 overs, finishing with 5-35 - the first five-fer of this World Cup.

No doubt New Zealand had hoped to bowl the Sri Lankans out even more cheaply, but it was an aim that was initially met with defiance by openers Nipuni Hansika and Chamari Polgamapala, who set about their task in a determined manner. Together they survived the first 13 overs unscathed, helped by some sketchy fielding from the Kiwis, whose lack of aggression in the infield allowed the Sri Lankans to pick off singles at will, while several catches went begging - the worst an easy chance put down by Katey Martin at point.

16 year old Amelia Kerr eventually removed Hansika (31) to claim her first World Cup wicket, caught by Anna Peterson in the deep, but that brought the experienced Chamari Attapattu to the crease. She settled in for the long haul, sharing a 92-run partnership with Polgamapala that eventually lasted 21.4 overs and saw Attapattu reach her 12th ODI fifty (64 balls) with a faultless cover drive.

For Sri Lanka the issues were twofold: pace, with Polgampala at the other end taking 113 balls to reach 49, and depth. When the Kiwis finally broke through - Attapattu caught at cover by Bates two balls after bringing up her 50 - the remaining batsmen still had a job to do, and they failed to do it.

It was Huddleston who, brought back into the attack in the 38th over, helped to undo the good work of the Sri Lankan top order, as the clatter of wickets deafened the crowd: Sri Lanka collapsing from 144-2 to 188-9. Polgamapala was the first to go, nicking it to Priest while on 49; Huddleston’s fuller length and pace variations then did for Prasadani Weerakkoddy (5), Sripali Weerakkoddy (6), Shashikala Siriwardene (16) and, off the penultimate ball of the innings, Udeshika Prabodani (4) - Siriwardene the only Sri Lankan below the top three to make double figures.

Huddleston said after the game that the day had been “a dream come true”, but also attributed her 5-wicket haul to the efforts of her team mates:

“Sophie [Devine], Amy [Satterthwaite] and Anna [Peterson[ brought it really nicely back for us - dried up the runs, so in the back-end of the innings the Sri Lankans had to really go for it, and I just got the cream on that really.”

“I really just wanted to do a team performance and do it for the girls.”

Both sides will take plenty from today’s game: Sri Lanka made one of the top sides in world cricket work for their first group-stage win; and while their lack of batting depth might have been apparent, they did gain the small victory of finishing on 188-9, overtaking their previous best total against New Zealand (187 at Lincoln in 2015).

New Zealand, on the other hand, demonstrated definitively why their batting is considered their strong suit, but must tighten things up in the field if they are to progress in this tournament.

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