| Sanath Jayasuriya en route to his 120 on Monday. (AP/PTI)
Bloemfontein: Sanath Jayasuriya struck a sparkling century to inspire Sri Lanka to a comprehensive 47-run win over New Zealand in their opening World Cup group B match on Monday.
The Sri Lankan captain blasted 120 off 125 balls to help the 1996 champions amass a daunting 272 for seven before New Zealand, despite a magnificent 141 by Scott Styris, collapsed to 225 all out in front of a sparse crowd at Goodyear Park.
Styris’ swashbuckling knock — his first one-day hundred — contained six sixes. He eventually threw his wicket away after running out of partners.
Hashan Tillekeratne chipped in with an unbeaten 81 and shared a 170-run partnership with Jayasuriya before the Black Caps struck back. They captured six late wickets and denied Sri Lanka a total in the region of 300 which had looked a distinct possibility at one stage.
But New Zealand, desperately needing to win the match after announcing their plan to boycott the pool game with Kenya because of security concerns, made a disastrous start to their reply. Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle and Craig McMillan were back in the pavilion within the first six overs.
Styris scored almost two-thirds of his team’s runs with only allrounder Chris Cairns (32) offering any other sustained resistance as Sri Lanka cruised to their 14th victory in their last 17 one-day games against New Zealand.
Jayasuriya registered his 16th one-day hundred and first in the World Cup after a typically flamboyant innings that featured 14 boundaries and a large slice of good fortune.
The explosive opener was given the benefit of the doubt to a confident appeal for caught-behind off seamer Daryl Tuffey on 18 and two dropped catches by wicketkeeper Lou Vincent (on 86 and 93), but survived to punish the opposition.
Tillekeratne was content to play a more subdued role, striking just five fours in his 106-ball knock, but held the innings together once his captain departed with the total on 193 — trapped leg-before by Nathan Astle.
Sri Lanka lost six wickets for 70 runs, Mahela Jayawardene (1), Aravinda de Silva (12), Kumar Sangakkara (13), Russel Arnold (12) and Chaminda Vaas (5) all falling cheaply to leave Tillekeratne battling away on his own.
New Zealand’s reply faltered almost as soon as it began when Astle was run out in the first over attempting a suicidal single. Then captain Fleming and McMillan followed in quick succession, both caught by wicketkeeper Sangakkara off paceman Pulasthi Gunaratne.
Cairns and Styris put on 78 for the fourth wicket until Cairns spooned a return catch to De Silva. The 27-year-old Styris then waged a courageous battle, riding his luck.
Fleming admits mistake
Fleming later admitted that his decision to field first was a mistake and cost them the match. “It was slower than we expected which surprised me. We lost our way at the start of the innings,” said the New Zealand captain.
The team’s inability to build partnerships proved to be New Zealand’s undoing, said Fleming. But he was full of praise for Styris’ “beautiful” 141. “Styris was superb today, but Jayasuriya took the game away from us,” Fleming remarked.
Man-of-the-Match Jayasuriya said the toss was crucial as “the wicket was likely to slow down towards the end of the match.” (Agencies)