NEW DELHI: Trent Boult orchestrated a brilliant bowling performance, guiding New Zealand to a convincing five-wicket victory over Sri Lanka on Thursday and positioning them on the cusp of the World Cup semi-finals.
In pursuit of a modest 172 for victory, New Zealand, propelled by the opening partnership of Devon Conway (45) and Rachin Ravindra (42), comfortably reached the target with a staggering 160 balls to spare in Bengaluru.
Currently holding the fourth position with 10 points, the Kiwis have a comfortable lead over Pakistan and Afghanistan, boasting a significantly superior net run-rate compared to their rivals.
For Pakistan and Afghanistan to have any chance of reaching the final four, they would need unlikely victory margins in their upcoming matches against England and South Africa, respectively.
In their final league match, the Black Caps rebounded from four consecutive losses, positioning themselves for a probable semi-final clash against the undefeated India.
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Ravindra, who also claimed two wickets, continued his stellar form in the tournament, surpassing South Africa’s Quinton de Kock to lead the batting chart with 565 runs, including three centuries.
Both left-handed openers showcased consistent boundary-hitting before Dushmantha Chameera dismissed Conway, followed by Ravindra’s departure. Despite the setbacks, Daryl Mitchell’s aggressive innings of 43 ensured a smooth victory, falling just 10 runs short of the target.
Opting to field first, Boult delivered exceptional figures of 3-37 as New Zealand restricted Sri Lanka to 171 in 46.4 overs.
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Opener Kusal Perera provided resistance with a quick 51, but the rest of the batting lineup crumbled. Sri Lanka found themselves at 128-9 before a resilient 10th-wicket partnership between Maheesh Theekshana (38 not out) and Dilshan Madushanka (19) added some respectability to the total.
Sri Lanka’s downfall began with Lockie Ferguson dismissing the left-handed Perera, who had struck nine fours and two sixes in his 28-ball knock. Despite Perera being dropped on zero by wicketkeeper Tom Latham off Tim Southee, the Kiwis quickly recovered, with Boult accounting for the wickets of skipper Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, and Charith Asalanka.
Boult’s dismissal of Mendis marked his 50th World Cup wicket, placing him in elite company alongside Glenn McGrath, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mitchell Starc, Lasith Malinga, and Wasim Akram.
Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner contributed with two crucial wickets, removing Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva. Mathews, still recovering from his unique “timed out” dismissal in the previous loss to Bangladesh, looked dejected after being caught at slip off Santner’s spin.
Sri Lanka concluded their league campaign with a seventh loss in nine matches.
Watch ICC World Cup 2023: New Zealand beat Sri Lanka, are almost through to the semifinals