| Brendon McCullum en route to his unbeaten 47 in Dambulla Monday. (AP)
Dambulla: Left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori gave Sri Lanka a dose of their own medicine as he led New Zealand to the final of the triangular one-day series with an exciting nine-run victory Monday.
Vettori’s career best (four for 14) helped New Zealand bundle out Sri Lanka for 147 on a turning track at the Rangiri Stadium with five balls to spare.
The Lankan batting failed to deliver after spinners Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralidharan had shared four wickets to restrict the Black Caps in the fifth successive low-scoring match of the tournament.
The hosts needed 10 to win off the last over with one wicket in hand, but Mahela Jayawardene (38) attempted an ambitious reverse-sweep off Scott Styris and was caught by Chris Harris at backward-point.
New Zealand now lead the league standings with two wins from three games while Sri Lanka finished their engagements with two victories from four games.
Pakistan, with one win from three matches, need to beat New Zealand in the last league game Tuesday to make the final.
New Zealand have 12 points, including two bonus points, followed by Sri Lanka on 11 and Pakistan on seven.
New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming came down hard on the conditions, saying it was “very difficult to bat on”.
“The pitch was rubbish,” said Fleming after his 200th one-dayer. “One should be looking at scores of better than 150 or 160. We didn’t get too many runs, but Vettori bowled very well,” he said.
Vettori was not the only star for New Zealand as wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum and Styris also gave excellent all-round performances.
McCullum’s unbeaten 47 on a difficult track helped the New Zealanders go past the 150-mark and he followed it up with four dismissals behind the stumps.
He smashed three sixes in his 63-ball knock adding 50 vital runs for the seventh wicket with Kyle Mills (17).
Styris (29) was the second-highest scorer and then grabbed two crucial wickets.
“We conceded too many runs in the closing overs. I think that was the turning point of the match. It was anybody’s game till the last over,” said the Lankan skipper Maravan Atapattu.
Vettori held the centre-stage troubling the Lankan batsmen with his turn and shrewd variations of length.
He bowled Kumar Sangakkara and then had Atapattu caught by substitute Matthew Horne before dismissing Tillekeratne Dilshan within his first five overs for three runs.
Earlier, Muralidharan (two for 41) and Jayasuriya (two for 35) restricted New Zealand after they were put into bat.
Jayasuriya exploited the conditions well on a windy day to claim his 250th wicket in his 303rd ODI.