New Zealand’s superb bowling display saw them dismantle a fragile Sri Lanka and open their World Cup campaign with a dominant 10-wicket win in Cardiff.
After being put in to bat, Sri Lanka collapsed to 136 all out in 29.2 overs, with New Zealand fast bowlers Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson taking three wickets each.
Only captain and opener Dimuth Karunaratne resisted, carrying his bat for 52 not out.
Black Caps openers Martin Guptill (73 not out) and Colin Munro (58 not out) raced to their target in just 16.1 overs in aggressive yet composed fashion.
Kane Williamson’s side also impressed in the field in a convincing victory to begin their bid to go one better than losing to Australia in the 2015 final.
The manner of their defeat reinforces expectations that a limited Sri Lanka side will struggle in this tournament and they now face a tough match against Afghanistan on Tuesday.
Fine bowling and failed footwork
Sri Lanka faced an arduous task in the morning on a green pitch but, while the Black Caps seamers bowled with impressive pace and accuracy, the surface did not offer as much swing and seam movement as expected.
Instead, Sri Lanka were indecisive, clearly lacking confidence after a poor run in one-day cricket, with many batsmen failing to move their feet and prodding loosely at testing deliveries as they lost five wickets for just 14 runs at one stage.
Henry took two wickets in as many balls, ending Kusal Perera’s counter-attacking 29 off 24 balls by inducing a miscued swipe to mid-on and getting a flat-footed Kusal Mendis nicking to second slip for a golden duck next up.
Needing to consolidate, Angelo Mathews fell for a nine-ball duck, caught behind as Colin de Grandhomme nipped it off the seam, before Jeevan Mendis sliced to gully off Ferguson, who also dismissed Dhananjaya de Silva lbw.
Only Karunaratne showed the patience and resistance required, carefully compiling a fine half-century by predominantly tapping straight balls off his pads, although he was fortunate not to be bowled when an inside edge hit the stumps but did not dislodge the bails.
Thisara Perera smacked two sixes before he was caught for 27 but Karunaratne soon ran out of partners, becoming only the second opener since West Indies’ Ridley Jacobs in 1999 to carry his bat in a World Cup match.
A statement win?
New Zealand lit up the 2015 tournament with a combination of aggressive batting and the sublime swing bowling of Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
With the white ball not tending to swing so far in this tournament, they may not be as menacing, but the Black Caps will gain confidence from their other bowlers starting so well here, with Southee absent because of a calf injury and Boult not at his best, straining too hard in his first spell before removing Suranga Lakmal later on.
Henry kept pushing it full in search of wickets, Ferguson bowled at 90mph and found extra bounce, De Grandhomme extracted movement, Jimmy Neesham was expensive but got up to 87mph and slow left-armer Mitchell Santner dismissed the dangerous Thisara Perera.
Guptill and Munro then threw Sri Lanka’s struggles into sharp relief, smacking boundaries with aplomb in a bout of controlled aggression to punish every bowler.
Despite Santner and wicketkeeper Tom Latham dropping tough chances, New Zealand were also excellent in the field, backing up the pressure created by their bowlers.
New Zealand’s qualities are well known by now but this untroubled win has underlined their World Cup credentials.
‘New Zealand were all over Sri Lanka’ – reaction
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson: “It’s a great start for us. You want a balanced attack going into any surface. It is important that you have that to have aggressive options for different occasions.
“The two at the top played beautifully. It was nice for those guys to play a few shots. It was a good all-round performance.”
New Zealand bowler Lockie Ferguson: “We had the conditions a little bit in our favour, and it was exciting to see Guptill and Munro bat so well.
“We pride ourselves on our fielding. The Black Caps have been renowned as one of the better fielding sides and that’s the standard we want to play.”
Former England assistant coach Paul Farbrace on BBC Test Match Special: “New Zealand were all over them – they never gave them a chance – and Sri Lanka can say they were never in this game at any stage.
“The extra pace has been the key today – it will give New Zealand an advantage over other sides. They will be a top-four team at the end of this tournament.
“The best thing today for Sri Lanka will have been the journey from the hotel to the ground.”
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne: “In the morning it was seaming and swinging. They had that advantage and they have good bowlers to do that, so they took their chance.
“The batters aren’t low on confidence. We need to think about the game. We are trying to go for the early overs. We need to give them a chance and then if you get set you can easily score some runs.”