Nearly two months on from that fateful game – so fateful that you know exactly what I’m talking about – the Black Caps have been involved in another truly bizarre finish to a cricket match.
This time, thanks to an incredibly rare incident, they came out on the right side of the result.
A horror collision on the boundary rope between Sri Lankan fielders Shehan Jayasuriya and Kusal Mendis turned a wicket into a six, and saw the Black Caps home with two balls to spare to claim a baffling four-wicket win in the second of three Twenty20 clashes.
How exactly did a wicket turn into a six, you ask? Well, with four balls remaining, and seven runs required, Mitchell Santner smacked Sri Lankan spinner Wanindu Hasaranga to the wide long-on boundary. Racing around from long-on, Jayasuriya claimed a superb running catch, only to collide with Mendis, who was sprinting across from mid-wicket. The pair painfully clashed knees – sending Jayasuriya into the boundary rope, still clutching the ball.
As both lay prone on the ground, the umpires – just as baffled as everyone else – initially signaled four, before correctly reversing their decision to make it a six, as Jayasuriya hadn’t released the ball before sprawling into the rope.
Umpire confusion, a seemingly vital catch turning into a six, and unprecedented scenes at the end of a Black Caps match? If this was all feeling a bit familiar, well, the result was at least different, albeit on an incredibly smaller scale.
With Jayasuriya having limped off, and Mendis still getting treatment on the boundary, Santner hit the next ball for four, the Black Caps wrapped up a win, and everyone stood around unsure of what to do.
The Black Caps lost the toss, being sent out into the field to bowl first. Tim Southee was excellent with the ball, leading the way in restricting the hosts to a chaseable total. Despite a poor start with the bat, Colin de Grandhomme partnered with a Central Districts batsman for a decisive partnership, before Santner was around at the end as the winning runs were hit in the final over.
The strikingly similar manner of victory saw the Black Caps seal an unassailable 2-0 lead in their three-match Twenty20 series, unintentionally stumbling upon a winning formula as they overcame a few sloppy moments to claim an ultimately well-earned victory.
Once again, the experienced pair of Southee and de Grandhomme were the stars of the show. Southee backed up his 2-20 in the opener with 2-18 as New Zealand restricted Sri Lanka to a below-par 161-9. A surge in the middle overs had seen Sri Lanka well poised at 108-2, but the Black Caps bowlers used their variations well, using well-disguised slower balls and regular changes of pace, with Seth Rance and Scott Kuggeleijn combining for five wickets.
Not required with the ball, de Grandhomme instead shone with the bat, following up his 28-ball 44 from the opener with an excellent 59 from 46 balls to lead the chase.
Despite his prodigious power which makes him a perfect player for the shortest format, de Grandhomme arguably hadn’t delivered on his potential at the international Twenty20 level. Part of that was usage – it never made sense for him to be batting at six – but before this series, he had only batted for more than 25 balls on one occasion.
Now, he’s done that in back-to-back games, and he showed tremendous situational skills this morning, building an innings and keeping the required run rate in check. He was partnered by Tom Bruce – in for Ross Taylor who was left out as a precautionary measure due to a hip injury – and the pair had plenty to do when joining forces at 38-3.
Colin Munro had holed out, and Tim Seifert and the promoted Kuggeleijn had both been trapped lbw in the same over by Akila Dananjaya. To make matters worse, Martin Guptill was watching on injured, after hurting his right abdominal muscle when fielding in the first innings.
With just two healthy recognised batsmen left in the sheds, 124 runs required and 16.2 overs still to be bowled, it required some cool heads, and de Grandhomme and Bruce provided that, putting on 109 – the highest stand for New Zealand against Sri Lanka.
They had their struggles, going five overs without a boundary, and wicketkeeper Kusal Perera was kept busy by an array of inside edges when mistiming slower balls. However, they kept things ticking over, and when de Grandhomme was given a life – Dasun Shanaka producing a comical slip straight out of a banana-peel cartoon skit when running in for an easy catch – the ante was upped.
De Grandhomme eventually holed out after reaching his highest Twenty20 score, and if there wasn’t enough drama, Bruce then hurt his knee, leaving the Black Caps with potentially only 10 healthy players for the next game. He was run out with seven needed off five balls, and when Daryl Mitchell departed immediately after, the stage was set for Santner.
He promptly delivered – with a little help from one of cricket’s strangest incidents.