Kumar Sangakkara rewrote the record books twice as Sri Lanka salvaged some pride with a 34-run win over New Zealand in the seventh and final One-Day International in Wellington on Thursday.
A graceful century from Sangakkara set up the visitor’s 6-287 before the hosts were dismissed for 253 in the 46th over.
New Zealand won the series 4-2 but Sri Lanka can now take some confidence into the teams’ next meeting, the opening game of the World Cup in Christchurch on February 14.
New Zealand had won eight of the last nine ODIs at Westpac Stadium but nobody could match Sangakkara’s deeds with the bat, his timing and class obvious in an unbeaten 113 off 105 balls.
In scoring his 21st century, the left-hander became the highest run-scorer for his country in ODIs, reaching 13,434 runs to surpass Sanath Jayasuriya.
The 37-year-old then claimed two catches, making him a world leader for wicketkeeping dismissals in ODIs. His 474 scalps are two more than Australian great Adam Gilchrist.
The first catch was a diving left-handed effort to dismiss the dangerous Corey Anderson and send Sri Lanka on their way to a much-needed win.
Sangakkara rated his team’s pre-World Cup progress as more important than any personal milestones.
“The entire team’s been working really hard and the hard work has paid off with a good performance,” he said.
“I think the guys are disappointed that we couldn’t win the series but we were competitive throughout.”
Sangakkara said experiencing gained playing in New Zealand conditions will be invaluable during the World Cup and the Sri Lankans have learned plenty from how the Black Caps play.
New Zealand’s chase began disastrously with the cheap dismissal of out-of-touch openers Martin Guptill and Tom Latham – the latter promoted in place of rested skipper Brendon McCullum.
The struggling Guptill departed on the first ball of innings for second time in the series, and for his third duck, trapped lbw by Nuwan Kulasekara.
Stand-in skipper Kane Williamson’s patient 54 and lively knocks from Anderson (29 off 20 balls), Luke Ronchi (47 off 42), Daniel Vettori (35 off 30) and Kyle Mills (30 off 17) kept the game alive but wickets fell too regularly.
Seamers Kulasekara, Shamida Eranga and Dushmantha Chameera all claimed two wickets, the latter impressing on debut with his pace.
Williamson says late swing undid his team but he was pleased with how his lower order kept them in contention.
“We certainly weren’t at our best but we kept making plays and to stay right in the game until the end was a positive for us,” he said.
“We want to win every game we play but Sri Lanka were outstanding today and outplayed us in all facets.”
Earlier, Sangakkara struck 14 fours and dominated a 104-run partnership for the second wicket with opener Tillakaratne Dilshan (81) after captain Lahiru Thirimanne had departed for 30.
Tim Southee was the pick of New Zealand’s bowlers, taking 2-50 off 10 overs, while allrounder Corey Anderson claimed 3-59 off nine.
MOST ODI WICKETKEEPING DISMISSALS
474 – Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka, 396 matches)
472 – Adam Gilchrist (Australia, 287)
424 – Mark Boucher (South Africa, 295)
314 – MS Dhoni (India, 253)