Hosts Sri Lanka pulled off a nail-biting victory over a spirited New Zealand via the Super Over, after their opening 'Super Eight' match of the ICC World Twenty20 saw fortunes fluctuate from one team to the other till the very end, in Pallekele, on Thursday.
With both teams tied at 174 after the end of their respective innings, the result was decided with the help of a Super Over.
Sri Lanka batsmen Mahela Jayawardene, Thisara Perera and Tillakaratne Dilshan put up 14 for 1 in the Super Over before pacer Lasith Malinga restricted New Zealand's challenge to 6 for 1, accounting for Martin Guptill's wicket with the fifth delivery.
The thrilling climax followed an equally dramatic run-chase by Sri Lanka as they replied to New Zealand's 174 for seven, with opener Tillakaratne Dilshan's blitzkreig at the top and his 80-run opening-wicket partnership with skipper Jayawardene.
Sri Lanka required 28 from three overs, 21 from two and 8 runs in the last over, bowled by Tim Southee.
In the last over, Southee conceded just three runs off his first four deliveries to make the equation five required from two balls.
Lahiru Thirimanne tied the score with a four over short long leg and put his side in charge.
With one needed off the last ball, Thirimanne managed an inside edge and ran towards the non-striker's end. James Franklin targeted the non-striker's end, where New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor was stationed. The latter dropped the ball which ricocheted off his hand and dislodged the bail, prompting the umpire to refer the decision to the third umpire.
Television replays showed that the ball deflected off Taylor's hand and fell on the stumps, resulting in scores being tied.
The match provided complete entertainment to a sell-out crowd.
Dilshan (76) and Jayawardene (44) gave Sri Lanka's run chase a dream start before New Zealand pulled back through some fine bowling and fielding.
The hosts made heavy weather of their run chase after losing Kumar Sangakkara (21) and Jeevan Mendis (8) in quick succession.
Dilshan departed in the pen-ultimate over of the innings after hitting Franklin for a six off the first ball before being run-out off the next.
It was the seventh tied match in all Twenty20 cricket, with New Zealand involved in four of them.
Earlier, a brisk half-century by opener Rob Nicol helped New Zealand post a competitive total. He struck 58 off 40 balls and his knock was laced with three fours and four sixes.
Nicol took his time before launching an assault on the host bowlers to lay a solid platform for the Kiwis. He and fellow-opener Guptill got off to a cautious start before he started to fire, picking boundaries on a regular basis.
It was debutant Akila Dananjaya who dismissed Guptill for a well-made 30-ball 38 off his first over. Guptill's knock was studded with six hits to the fence.
After Guptill's departure, Nicol and McCullum were watchful, but kept the scoreboard moving by hitting the occasional fours and sixes off the loose deliveries.
Luck was on Nicol's side as he was dropped by Dananjaya when on 31.
Ajantha Mendis, however, cut short McCullum's quickfire innings of 25 in the 13th over with New Zealand yet to reach the 100-run mark.
But in the very next over off Mendis, Nicol smashed three sixes to change the complexion of the game totally, adding 24 more runs to the Black Caps' total.
Just when things started to look dangerous for the hosts, Dananjaya took his second wicket of the match, sending back Nicol.
Taylor (23) thereafter chipped in with some crucial runs that lifted the New Zealanders to a healthy total.
Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters