Sri Lanka and New Zealand opened the World T20 Super Eights with a Super Over thriller as the business end of the competition began with an absolute bang at Pallekele.
Asked to chase 175, Lanka threw away a blistering start to splutter home to 174 for 6, prompting a Super Over, which was eventually won by the hosts in nerve-wracking fashion.
After much ado and even more discussions, the hosts took strike for the first over of the two-over lottery. Tim Southee, who had bowled two brilliant overs in the death to force a tie in normal play, again bowled an impressive over with the two batsmen Mahela Jayawardene and Thissara Perera failing to find the boundary. However a couple of wides proved costly, as Sri Lanka, scrambling for every run that was available, ended their Super Over with 13 runs on the board.
That meant New Zealand needed 14 runs - if the Kiwis had tied the Super Over as well, Sri Lanka would have gone through as the home team had struck more boundaries in their innings.
It started encouragingly for the Kiwis, Martin Guptill slicing Lasith Malinga's first ball for a double. A single in the next ball brought the dangerous Brendon McCullum on strike. The destructive opener, however failed to make his usual meaty contact with Lasith Malinga very much in his elements, as the Sri Lankans held on for what might prove to be a vital win.
Earlier, the Kiwis, riding on a half-century from Rob Nicol (58 in 40) and some useful contributions from their other top three batsmen, posted a competitive 174 for seven. However, with the pitch a batting paradise, one always felt the Black Caps were about ten runs short.
In reply, Sri Lanka got off to a tearaway start with Tillakaratne Dilshan and Jayawardene smoking the bowlers to all part of the ground.
Dilshan (76 off 53) took 17 runs of the first over, setting the tone for what would be a very fruitful powerplay for one of the tournament favorites. Jayawardene then got in on the act, a wonderfully timed flick for six and then an even better cover drive seemingly taking Sri Lanka to the target with ease.
The hosts were going at well over ten an over -- the powerplay bringing them a massive 68 runs. Ross Taylor's men, however, refused to let their heads drop, clawing their way back slowly into the game - with the crucial wicket of Jayawardene (44 in 26) the catalyst to the fightback.
Before you knew it, Sri Lanka had a real fight on their hands, needing eight runs off the last over. Lahiru Thirimanne's extravagant scoop shot with the Lankans needing 5 off two deliveries, came off much to the delight of the boisterous capacity crowd, but the match took another dramatic turn with just one delivery and one run needed.
A miscued pull off Souhtee's final ball saw Angelo Mathews and Thirimanne scamper for a single, with Thirimanne running to the bowler's end. James Franklin, knowing that Thirimanne was well off his crease, took his time and threw the ball to Taylor, who was backing up. The Kiwi captain dropped the ball while trying to knock over the stumps, with the Lankan batsman well out of his crease, his body language suggesting he had thrown away the chance to tie the game.
Taylor convinced his mistake had cost them the game, even went over to the opposing batsmen and started to shake hands as the Lankan bench celebrated what they thought was a victory. However, umpire Simon Taufel went upstairs to review the final delivery, and replays amazingly showed, Taylor dropping the ball inadvertently onto the stumps. After a big delay, as the West Indies and England team impatiently waited on the sidelines to get onto the field for the late game, a Super Over was ordered in which Sri Lanka held their nerves better.