Christchurch, Feb 14: Hosts New Zealand gave the cricket World Cup a cracking start with a scintillating batting show as they crushed last edition losing finalists Sri Lanka by 98 runs in the opening match of the showpiece event here today. [NZ reduce gap against Sri Lanka after 23 years]
Sent into bat, New Zealand posted an imposing 331 for six with captain Brendon McCullum (65) and big-hitting Corey Anderson (75) smashing boundary-laden half centuries to set the World Cup alight. In-form Kane Williamson also chipped in with a useful 57 on a batting pitch at the Hagley Oval as the Black Caps hit the Lankan bowlers all over the park. (All the firsts of WC 2015)
Chasing a stiff target, Sri Lanka lost three key wickets, including those of Mahela Jayawardene (0) and Kumar Sangakkara (39), in a heap in middle overs to be bundled out for 233 in 46.1 overs and lose the lopsided Group A game.
Opener Lahiru Thirimanne was the lone batsman to offer any semblance of a fight with a 60-ball 65 while captain Angelo Mathews made 46 as Sri Lankan batting came a cropper. (Day 2 schedule)
Mathew's decision to bowl first seemed correct as there was light rain just after the toss and the start of the match was delayed by eight minutes but it ultimately boomeranged as the home side batsmen made a flying star and there was hardly any lull except a few overs midway into the Kiwi innings.
McCullum, who hit 10 fours and a six in his 49-ball knock, and Martin Guptill (49) put on 111 runs from 15.5 overs for the opening wicket before a twin strike off consecutive deliveries by leg-spinner Jeevan Mendis in the 34th over - that of Williamson and Ross Taylor (14) - put brakes on the New Zealand innings.
But, Anderson, who came out at 193 for 4 in the 34th over, upped the tempo for New Zealand with his 75 off 46 deliveries, which included eight fours and two sixes, before he was out on the last ball of the innings.
He added 65 with Grant Elliott (29) for the fifth wicket and 73 with Luke Ronchi (29 not out) for the sixth wicket as New Zealand scored 102 runs from the last 10 overs. Sri Lanka made a cautious start without losing early wickets and they were on track till the 22nd over when they were 124 for one.
But, three quick key wickets fell - that of Thirimanne, Jayawardene and Sangakkara - as Sri Lanka lost the plot from there on to suffer a crushing defeat.