Christchurch, Feb 14: New Zealand made the perfect start to the World Cup when a swashbuckling Brendon McCullum led his side to a 98-run win over Sri Lanka at Hagley Oval in Christchurch Saturday.
McCullum's quickfire 65 set New Zealand up for an imposing 331-6, with Kane Williamson adding 57 in the middle of the innings and Corey Anderson blasting 75 off 46 at the tail.
Sri Lanka made a steady start in reply and were 124-1 in the 22nd over, setting themselves up for a big finish.
In the space of 12 balls Trent Boult and Daniel Vettori combined to take three wickets for five runs to reduce Sri Lanka to 129-4.
Premier batsmen Lahiru Thirimanne (65), Kumar Sangakkara (39) and Mahela Jayawardene (0) were back in the hutch as the batting collapse, a familiar part of Sri Lanka's pre World Cup performances, reappeared.
Sangakkara had the consolation of passing former Australian captain Ricky Ponting as the second highest run-maker in one-day international history.
Adam Milne then removed Dimuth Karunaratne (14) and Jeevan Mendis (4) to have Sri Lanka at 168-6, facing a run rate of nearly 10, and New Zealand firmly in command.
New Zealand's dominance underscored their rising status as serious contenders in a tournament where they have never previously gone further than the semi-finals.
In heavily overcast conditions and with a little drizzle in the air that delayed the start by a few minutes, Sri Lanka won the toss and put New Zealand into bat in conditions ripe for swing bowling.
But it was the New Zealand batsmen who took control with McCullum setting the tournament alight in a 111-run opening partnership off 95 deliveries with Martin Guptill.
McCullum, at his destructive best in a 49-ball stay, smacked one six and 10 fours, including three boundaries off the first four balls he faced, to the delight of the partisan New Zealand crowd.
Mendis took two wickets for five for Sri Lanka, but only bowled two overs while Suranga Lakmal took two for 62 off 10.
Tillakaratne Dilshan and Thirimanne put on 67 for the first wicket in Sri Lanka's reply before being parted by Vettori.
Thirimanne and Sangakkara added 57 for the second wicket before the innings fell apart.
For New Zealand, Vettori, Southee, Boult, Milne and Anderson took two wickets each. AFP