Cricket: Black Caps rained on yet again

Black Caps opener BJ Watling plays a shot during New Zealand's fourth one-day international...
Black Caps opener BJ Watling plays a shot during New Zealand's fourth one-day international against Sri Lanka in Hambantota yesterday. Photo from Reuters.
Another day and another rain-interrupted loss - New Zealand's tour of Sri Lanka has taken on an all-too-familiar look.

The hosts clinched the one-day series overnight with a seven-wicket win, again aided in part by the Duckworth-Lewis method, in the fourth ODI at Hambantota.

That gave Sri Lanka a 3-0 lead in the series heading into today's fifth game, before the sides meet in a two-match test series beginning next weekend.

All five scheduled matches on the tour to date have been affected to some degree by rain and yesterday was no different.

With the heavens opening before the start of play the match was reduced to 42 overs before a ball was bowled, but it was not long before the rain returned.

In truth, the break probably aided New Zealand's chances of victory, given they had slumped to 107-7 when the teams were forced from the field in the 30th over. Once the skies cleared, the Black Caps batted out their full allotment of 32 overs to set Sri Lanka 131 for victory.

The home side experienced none of the troubles the touring batsmen endured, cruising to the target only three down and with 34 balls to spare.

"It was a tough loss," said captain Ross Taylor. "Sri Lanka played smart cricket. The toss had a big part to play in the match, but they deserve their victory.

"We didn't bat as well as we would've liked. On wickets that suited the seam bowlers, today it would've been nice to give our bowlers 30 or 40 more runs to play with."

But no-one in the Black Caps' batting order truly got going.

Brendon McCullum top-scored with 30, while the best partnership of the innings was just 32 runs for the fifth wicket.

The effort continued a worrying trend of insufficient totals from New Zealand, a side which has only three half-centuries to their name (two from BJ Watling) so far on the tour.

It also prolonged a poor run of results stretching back to the home series against Zimbabwe last summer.

Since beating the minnows in the second twenty/20 in February, New Zealand has played 35 matches in all forms of the game and has emerged victorious in just four of them. Three draws and three wash-outs also featured, but the 25 losses make for dire reading.

With a record like that looming over them, New Zealand should not struggle for motivation in the final one-dayer. Especially considering, with the tests against Sri Lanka being followed by a daunting tour of world No 1 South Africa, the dead rubber may be this team's best chance of grabbing another win for some time.

"We've just got to stick together and put a performance together worthy of the New Zealand cricket team," Taylor said.

"A 3-1 score obviously sounds a lot better than 4-0 and we want to send the ODI players who are going home off on a good note."


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