Sri Lanka captain and veteran paceman Lasith Malinga took his fifth international hat-trick in his side’s 37-run victory over New Zealand in Pallekele.
New Zealand still claimed the 2-1 series win, but the 36-year-old took centre stage, unleashing a blistering over that contained four wickets in as many balls, reducing the Black Caps to 15/4. The tourists were bowled out for 88, 37 runs short of Sri Lanka’s seemingly modest total of 125/8.
Malinga won the toss and elected to bat, and from the outset his top order struggled to find fluency in the middle. Danushka Gunathilaka (30) provided some spark from his opening berth, and Niroshan Dickwella (24) unleashed a typically exciting cameo, but the home side’s batters struggled to get to grips with the guile of Tim Southee’s bowling attack.
The spinners were the most potent, Mitchell Santner bowling exquisitely for figures of 3/12, while leg-spinner Todd Astle struck at important moments to record 3/28. A target of 126 had looked like easy pickings for a strong New Zealand side, but Malinga was in inspired form.
The third over of the innings began with Malinga cleaning up Colin Munro (12) with a typical yorker, before Hamish Rutherford, Colin de Grandhomme and Ross Taylor all fell for golden ducks, Malinga’s relentless in-swing and unerring length proving too strong for the entire top order. The atmosphere in the ground became electric, and suddenly Sri Lanka were in a position of strength.
After a period of relative calm, New Zealand endured another collapse, crumbling from 46/5 to 52/9, leaving the hosts within a wicket of an emphatic victory. What ensued was a spirited effort from away skipper Southee, who punted three sixes in a Lakshan Sandakan over to offer his side a sliver of hope.
Sandakan wrapped up the game though, pinning Astle lbw to secure a home victory by 37 runs, and clawing back a win to ensure that the visitors did not complete a 3-0 series sweep.