Tillakaratne Dilshan
Tillakaratne Dilshan missed out on what would have been his 23rd ODI century.Reuters

Sri Lanka defeated New Zealand by eight wickets in the third ODI at The Saxton Oval in Nelson on Thursday to keep the five-match series alive. 

Tillakaratne Dilshan and Lahiru Thirimanne's brilliant partnership powered the visitors to a much-needed victory in the third ODI. By winning this game, Angelo Mathews & co. have also avoided a series defeat. This win will give Sri Lanka a major boost to their confidence, as they look to overhaul a 2-0 deficit. 

New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, standing in for the injured Brendon McCullum, won the toss earlier in the day and opted to bat first. Martin Guptill, who was the star of the second ODI, did not have a similar kind of impact in the third one-dayer. New Zealand did get off to a decent start, though, but their middle-order disappointed in Nelson on Thursday.

Williamson was the top scorer for the Kiwis with 59 runs. A late flourish from Tim Southee and Adam Milne helped the Black Caps reach 276 at the end of 50 overs. 

Sri Lanka got off to a flier with Dilshan and Danushka Gunathilaka. The latter punished the Kiwi bowlers right from the start and reached his half-century in no time. Unfortunately, Mitchell McClenaghan got the better of him in the 13th over of the Sri Lankan run chase. Gunathilaka scored 65 runs from just 45 balls and his innings was decorated with seven boundaries and four sixes. 

The wicket of Gunathilaka did not stop the run flow, however, as Dilshan and Thririmanne played the New Zealand bowlers with a lot of ease. Dilshan unfortunately, missed out on his 23rd ODI ton as he was run out after making 91 runs from 92 balls. 

Thirimanne remained not out on 87 and finished the chase with Dinesh Chandimal.

This was Sri Lanka's first victory on this tour of New Zealand. After the humiliating defeat in the second ODI, Sri Lanka bounced back strongly to win the third one and pull the series back to 2-1.