Kristian Clarke’s redemption song brings joy to New Zealand

New Zealand

Two weeks ago, New Zealand’s Kristian Clarke needed to defend eight off the final over against Zimbabwe’s lower order to secure victory in a third-place playoff match at the Quadrangular tournament in South Africa. But Zimbabwe’s No. 9 Luke Oldknow struck a six off him to crush New Zealand’s hopes.

On Wednesday, Clarke had a shot at redemption. He was faced with the task of hitting six runs off two remaining balls. At stake was a quarter-final berth. He cleared deep midwicket, much to the joy of his mates; Sri Lanka’s hopes crushed.

“Winning or losing in the final over is probably the toughest part of the game,” Clarke told ESPNcricinfo. “I was part of it when we were playing Zimbabwe and I kind of bowled an average last over and lost the game, so I know the feeling.

“In the last over, me and [the No. 8] Joey Field just talked about the bowler, that he may bowl full. So we wanted to walk across and go square. He was telling me to breathe to stay calm. After hitting the shot, I looked for a bit, but since I timed it pretty well, I just began to run off.”

New Zealand, whose first game against Japan was washed out, now have the opportunity to top Group A if they beat India on Friday. Clarke felt lessons had to be learnt from the tense finish ahead of the clash against the defending champions and tournament favourites.

“We can take a lot of confidence from this win ahead of the India game,” Clarke said “Chasing 250 [243] is a good effort. But we don’t want to fly too high. We want to keep carry on and focus on the processes. We stuck to our training against the Sri Lanka spinners and they paid off. We’d like to stick to that against India.”

For Sri Lanka, it was “heartbreak”, according to team manager and former international Farveez Maharoof, himself an Under-19 World Cupper (featured in the 2004 edition). However, he felt the better side won on the day.

“Definitely can’t question our boys’ effort,” Maharoof said. “Just one of those heartbreakers. “The boys fought brilliantly because conditions were very good for batting till the end. The boys fought well, especially with our partnership in the first innings between Sonal Dinusha and Ahan Wickramasinghe [who struck 78 runs in 66 balls].

“Overall, New Zealand were deserving winners. They were in the game more than us and they dragged the game right till the end. In the end, our boy missed his yorker by six inches and it goes for a sixer. Complete heartbreak, can’t imagine what the boys are going through. All in all, good game.”

As for how the Sri Lankan youngsters would cope with the loss, Maharoof said that’s where the contribution of the support staff comes in. He said that despite a tough loss, there were positives for the team to learn for the future.

“It will be hard for sure,” Maharoof added. “You can see the coaching staff and the players are clearly down. Now it’s up to the management to cheer the boys up. We have a plate to play for, and pretty proud of the boys’ effort.

“They never gave up till the end, and these are little good things that will help the boys in their careers. Answering your question, how hard it is? Definitely very hard and that’s where our professionalism comes in. We need to get the boys up and running again.”

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