Chasing 175, New Zealand got off to the worst start possible as Lasith Malinga rattled the stumps of Colin Munro (0) in the very first over.
Kandy: Ross Taylor played a knock of 48 runs off just 29 balls, allowing New Zealand to defeat Sri Lanka by five wickets in the first T20I of the three-match series here in Pallekele.
Chasing 175, New Zealand got off to the worst start possible as Lasith Malinga rattled the stumps of Colin Munro (0) in the very first over of the innings. Martin Guptill was also not able to stay at the crease for a long time as he was sent packing by Akila Dananjaya to reduce Kiwis to 18/2.
Tim Seifert and Colin de Grandhomme put up a brief 21-run stand, but their stint at the crease came to a halt as Wanindu Hasaranga dismissed Seifert (15), with Kiwis still needing 136 runs for the win.
Ross Taylor and de Grandhomme retrieved the innings for Kiwis as the duo scored at a brisk pace and they managed to put up a stand of 79 runs, but their resistance came to an end as Malinga clean bowled de Grandhomme (44), reducing Kiwis to 118/4, still 57 runs away from the target. with this wicket, Malinga became the highest wicket-taker in T20Is, surpassing Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi.
Taylor and Daryl Mitchell stitched a partnership of 26 runs, but as soon as Kiwis started to get ahead in the match, Hasaranga sent Taylor (48) back to the pavilion. With Kiwis 144/5, the rain came down and the match had to be stopped.
The match resumed quickly after and Mitchell and Santner ensured Kiwi victory by five wickets. Mitchell and Santner remained unbeaten on 25 and 14 respectively.
Earlier, Kusal Mendis' knock of 79 runs enabled Sri Lanka to post 174 runs for the loss of four wickets in the allotted twenty overs after opting to bat first.
Openers Mendis and Kusal Perera provided a steady start to Sri Lanka's innings as the duo played in an aggressive manner, stitching up a partnership of 41 runs, but their stint at the crease came to a halt as Kiwi skipper dismissed Perera (11) in the fifth over.
Avishka Fernando and Mendis put up a brief 27-run stand, but the former was dismissed after scoring just ten runs by Mitchell Santner in the 10th over, reducing Sri Lanka to 68/2.
Niroshan Dickwella came out to bat next and he provided support to Mendis at the crease and the duo kept scoring at a brisk pace and Sri Lanka reached the score of 114/2 in 15 overs.
In the last five overs, both batsmen started to look for big shots and they rapidly increased the run-rate of the team. Mendis and Dickwella ended up having a partnership of 63 runs. Mendis (79) was finally sent back to the pavilion by Kiwi skipper Southee, reducing the Islanders to 131/3 in the 17th over.
Kiwis kept a check on the scoring rate in the final overs, and Dickwella (33) was sent back to the pavilion via a run-out in the last over, reducing Sri Lanka to 159/4 with three more balls left to play.
Isuru Udana smashed 15 runs off the final three balls of the innings to take Sri Lanka's score past the 170-run mark.
Sri Lanka and New Zealand will take on each other in the second T20I of the three-match series on September 3.
Brief Scores: New Zealand 175/5 (Ross Taylor 48, Colin de Grandhomme 44, Lasith Malinga 2-23) defeat Sri Lanka 174/4 (Kusal Mendis 79, Niroshan Dickwella 33, Tim Southee 2-20) by five wickets.