- Publish Date
- Tuesday, 8 January 2019, 6:42PM
When a New Zealand batsman can smoke 124 from 80 balls, yet not be the team's most important contributor, then things are going pretty damn well for the Black Caps.
In what is surely the richest vein of form ever seen by a New Zealand cricketer in one format, Ross Taylor's 137 anchored the Black Caps at Saxton Oval, before Henry Nicholls bashed his first one-day century as the hosts posted an intimidating 364-4 on their way to a 115-run victory.
Once again, Sri Lanka showed more fight with the bat than the ball; with Thisara Perera again a thorn in the Black Caps side with an entertaining 80, but the visitors collapsed once he left, as the Black Caps sealed a 3-0 series sweep.
Taylor was named man of the series, after an innings which he continued his summer of milestones. For the 20th time in ODI cricket, the helmet came off and the tongue was stuck out as he celebrated yet another one-day century – smiting nine fours and four sixes in his 131-ball knock.
The first New Zealander to reach 20 centuries in any format, the 34-year-old's form has been nothing short of remarkable. Since 2018 began, he averages an absurd 92, at a strike rate of 93, and today, Taylor brought up his sixth consecutive 50 – tying the New Zealand record.
While Taylor's form has been a constant over the past few years, Nicholls has truly blossomed this summer. In tests since November, Nicholls had scored three fifties and two centuries, and he added his maiden ODI century to the mix in a brutal innings.
The Canterbury left-hander brought up his 50 from 44 balls, and needed only 27 more to move through to a ton – the sixth fastest in New Zealand ODI history.
He linked up with Taylor – adding 154, and then bashed a rapid 63 with Jimmy Neesham, but Nicholls was allowed the platform to punish thanks to the earlier accomplishments of Taylor and skipper Kane Williamson.
The Black Caps' only minor batting issue has been their lack of opening partnerships, and this time neither Martin Guptill nor Colin Munro shone, leaving Williamson and Taylor to join forces at 31-2.
Taylor was admittedly fortunate early on. He would have been run out on his second ball had the throw been accurate, but ended up earning four overthrows. His next scoring shot was a french cut for four, but that was all the luck he needed.
Williamson and Taylor's accumulation was helped by more shocking middle order bowling by Sri Lanka. Lakshan Sandakan's solitary wicket was the only scalp claimed by a Sri Lankan spinner all series, part-timers were easily dispatched, and Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Pradeep went for a combined 170 from 19 overs.
Williamson made 55 off 65 before holing out trying to clear mid-wicket in a probably unnecessary shot, but Taylor pushed on.
Peppering the legside with fantastically wristy strokeplay, Taylor brought up his milestone ton off 112 balls, before producing his traditional booming sixes over cow corner. 64 runs came through mid-wicket or long-on, and though he was eventually caught on the square leg boundary, Nicholls and Neesham were even more explosive, adding 63 off last 22 balls to set Sri Lanka another mammoth chase.
As usual, they had their moments. Niroshan Dickwella (46), Dhananjaya de Silva (36) and Kusal Perera (43) all had handy cameos as the New Zealand seam attack took some stick, but steady wickets fell as Williamson (0-24 from five overs) and Ish Sodhi (3-40 from 8.4) increased an already challenging required run-rate.
Thisara Perera attempted a second miracle, with help again from New Zealand fielders, as Tim Seifert and Taylor shelled chances. However, Guptill showed them how it's done, taking a stunning one-handed catch running backwards from point to end the danger, and end Sri Lanka's hopes.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.