Sri Lanka 216-7 (Samaraweera 104, Mathews 51) beat
New Zealand 119 (Elliott 41, Malinga 4-28) by 97 runs
Tri-Series One-Day International, Colombo
Thilan Samaraweera became the oldest Sri Lankan to register a maiden One-Day International century and it was his brilliant effort, allied to three wickets in an over from Lasith Malinga, that set his side up for a 97-run win over New Zealand in the tri-series ODI opener in Colombo.
Sri Lanka's 216 for seven proved more than enough after New Zealand were bowled out for a disappointing 119.
Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara won the toss and had no hesitation in deciding to bat first but soon found himself at the crease when Tillakaratne Dilshan played on to Daryl Tuffey for four.
Mahela Jayawardene then steered Shane Bond to slip for four, Sanath Jayasuriya spooned the same bowler to Ian Butler at third man and when Sangakkara (18) lofted Butler into the deep where Jacob Oram held the catch, Sri Lanka were in trouble at 38 for four thanks to a superb opening spell from Bond and Tuffey, who showed everyone exactly how much they have been missed in the last two years.
Samaraweera had begun to put things right but quickly lost partner Thilina Kandamby, who drilled Daniel Vettori to Ross Taylor at midwicket having made 15 but Samaraweera found a willing ally in Angelo Mathews.
The pair of them batted calmly and steadily and they slowly but surely batted Sri Lanka back into the game, almost exclusively with singles.
That all changed when the batting Power Play was taken, Samaraweera opening up to display a full range of strokes and he got to his hundred from 122 balls when a misfield from Grant Elliott allowed him three where there should have been just one.
Mathews reached his second ODI half-century before Bond returned to have him bowled for 51 on his way to figures of three for 43 and Samaraweera's fine knock was ended when he too was bowled trying to scoop Butler over fine leg having made 104 in 124 balls.
The start of New Zealand's innings mirrored that of Sri Lanka's when they fell to seven for three as Nuwan Kulasekara and Thilan Thushara's opening burst saw off Jesse Ryder (0), Martin Guptill (3) and Ross Taylor (2).
Whereas Sri Lanka had the experience and cool-headed approach of Samraraweera for their crisis, New Zealand had to rely on Brendon McCullum and Grant Elliott and while they tried hard, they struggled to get the ball off the square at times, the frustration no doubt led to the dismissal of McCullum, bowled trying to slog Lasith Malinga out of the ground having made a painstaking 14 in 52 balls.
Three balls later Oram edged to Kumar Sangakkara having made four and the third wicket in the over came when Nathan McCullum was bowled first ball - there can't be many times that brothers have been dismissed in the same over, less so when one of them is on ODI debut.
Elliott, and Ian Butler, who was the last man to fall for 25, were the only other batsmen to look comfortable but even their efforts were in vain as a combination of Jayasuriya, who bowled Elliot for 41 and had Daniel Vettori trapped in front for ten, and Malinga, who returned to bowl Butler, enabled Sri Lanka to finish off the victory just as rain closed in.
Tuffey was run out by Kumar Sangakkara for two while Malinga finished with excellent figures of four for 28 but all six bowlers used impressed, and this all came after Muttiah Muralitharan was again ruled out through injury.
Sri Lanka meet India on Friday before New Zealand play India on Saturday with the final on Monday.
© Cricket World 2009