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Doug Bracewell and Scott Kuggeleijn first saved the bats men's blushes, then produced with the ball and in the field as the Black Caps claimed a 35-run victory over Sri Lanka in a one-off T20 international. Having lost their past six matches in the shortest format, and 10 of their past 11, it was a timely win for the Black Caps, and wrapped up a third series victory over Sri Lanka.
While the clash at Eden Park was hardly a priority, as shown by the Black Caps leaving their captain, coach and best seamer at home, there was still plenty to glean from the performances of their returning standouts. The Black Caps indicated their faith in Bracewell and Kuggeleijn's all-round abilities by naming a side with just five specialist batsmen, but they would not have expected to be calling upon their batting talents so early. Sri Lanka ripped through the New Zealand top order as Colin Munro, Martin Guptill and Tim Seifert all succumbed to top edges.
The trio were attempting to play into the legside but, perhaps surprised by the pace and bounce in the wicket, all meekly skied deliveries which were well taken.
Add in Henry Nicholls lasting only six balls, and it was 27 for four, tasking Ross Taylor and Mitchell Santner with a rebuilding effort.
Nine runs from 22 balls followed, and when Santner departed at 55 for five after 10 overs, the Black Caps' prospects of victory looked slim.
However, Taylor made 33 from 35 to at least steady proceedings, before combining with Bracewell, who produced some lusty blows.
Twenty-three came off a Thisara Perera over as part of an immensely valuable 44 off 26 balls, before Kuggeleijn bashed 35 off just 15 to see the Black Caps through to 179 for seven.
Regular wickets then fell in Sri Lanka's chase.
While the visiting side was tracking at 10 runs an over, Kuggeleijn and Bracewell took the vital wickets of Kusal Perera and Niroshan Dickwella respectively. Lockie Ferguson had earlier removed Sadeera Samarawickrama for a first-ball duck.
That brought Thisara Perera to the crease, and once again he posed the biggest danger to the Black Caps.
The powerful all-rounder carved his way to 43 from 24 balls as Sri Lanka stayed ahead of the required run rate, but a Ferguson slower ball drew him into picking out Bracewell at long-off, who took the catch.