New Zealand and Sri Lanka played out an absolute thriller at the Hagley Oval. The hosts chased down 285 runs on the final day that was marred by rain thanks to Kane Williamson who smashed an unbeaten ton and also got the team over the line off the final ball of the day. With this win for New Zealand, India have qualified for the WTC final irrespective of the result of the ongoing Test match against Australia in Ahmedabad. Sri Lanka needed to win the two-match Test series by 2-0 to have any chance of making it to the WTC final.
New Zealand needed 257 runs to win on the final day with nine wickets in hand. But as forecasted, rain made it presence felt and relented just in time for 52 overs to be bowled. The visitors nipped out Tom Latham early and Henry Nicholls too was sent back for 20 as New Zealand were struggling a bit at 90/3. Nicholls, in particular, looked to attack scoring 20 off 24 balls but perished in search for quick runs.
However, match really shifted in New Zealand's favour when Daryl Mitchell came out to bat. Kane Williamson was steady at the other end making sure to hold one end. He also punished poor deliveries and churned out runs whenever possible. But it was Mitchell's knock that gave the Kiwis a real shot at the victory. He smashed 81 runs off just 86 deliveries with 3 fours and 4 sixes and stitched a 142-run partnership for fourth wickets in just 26.1 overs.
Just when it felt that Mitchell will take New Zealand over the line singlehandedly, Asitha Fernando struck consecutive overs to nip out him and Tom Blundell. Sri Lanka were back in the game. Well, but Williamson was standing strong in the middle and got to his 27th Test century in style. With the required runs and the balls left going neck and neck, Sri Lanka made sure to deploy all the fielders to the boundary.
This is when Williamson was very smart in tapping the ball and running a couple. The former New Zealand skipper kept his side in the hunt even as wickets kept falling at the other end. The equation came down to 15 runs in the last two overs and Lahiru Kumara did well to skittle Tim Southee and make it 8 off the last over. Drama was not over yet as Matt Henry was run-out with five still needing off the last three balls.
Williamson then threaded the gap like a master to conjure a boundary. Surely, New Zealand was expected to win comfortably now. But Cricket is a game of uncertainties and it came down to 1 run off the last ball with Asitha Fernando smartly bowling a bouncer. The bowler once again delivered a short ball only for Williamson. However, the hosts ran a bye and it was a heart-stopping stuff with Williamson diving to complete a run and Asitha affecting a direct hit.
New Zealand completed a stunning turn around after being on the mat for the first half of the Test. Thanks to their win, India also made it to the final while Sri Lanka got ruled out of the tournament.
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