The real 'World Cup' is about to begin
by Asher Wilson
DateLine: 27th September 2012
New Zealand vs Sri Lanka
Super Eight Stage
13th Match at Pallekele
After the tournament got off to a rather sluggish start owing to inclement weather and some unusual dead rubber games in the group stages, there will be little margin for error now as the best in the business go head to head to contest for a place in the semi-finals. The real World Cup is about to begin. With no 'minnows' in the super-8s, the tournament is entering an exciting phase where there are no favorites or underdogs in any of the matches. The second phase starts with hosts Sri Lanka taking on New Zealand, and both teams enter the game with similar forms; they started their tournament with victories but lost their respective second games.
Sri Lanka may consider themselves a bit unlucky and as their second game (against South Africa) was affected by rain and reduced to just 7 overs which shouldn't be much of a concern for their think tank as they prepare for this contest. Tillakaratne Dilshan has been woefully out of form recently but is still expected to open the batting probably with skipper Mahela Jayawardene, who has carved out a niche for himself at that position in limited overs cricket. Young Dilshan Munaweera has not taken the world by storm with his couple of opportunities at the top of the order which could open the doors for the more established Dinesh Chandimal today, given that its crunch time in the tournament. Kumar Sangakkara will pick himself at No.4 while Angelo Matthews, Lahiru Thirimanne and Jeevan Mendis are likely to make a pretty decent lower middle order to follow him.
Sri Lankaís bowlers havenít been performing up to scratch so Ajantha Mendis will be key in this match and the bowling has found some more penetration with the his return after he was rested against South Africa. However, the iffy form of their trump card Lasith Malinga still remains a concern. Both of them are expected to play today though and are likely to be supported by Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera to make up the playing XI. Lankans will have a lot of fans out to watch them. Ajantha Mendis is still leading the wicket taking list after taking 6 against Zimbabwe.
Matching up to Mendis there is Brendan McCullum who is in devastating form with the bat as he leads the run scoring list with 155 runs to his name. McCullum has struggled against Sri Lanka in the past only averaging 18.22 from 9 innings but averages 53.25 when playing in Sri Lanka. Another huge innings from him in today's match would put New Zealand in a fantastic position.
New Zealand become a totally different team when they play in World Cups. Form, squad, opposition, nothing matters to them when they play in the World Cups. Of course, they have no titles to their name, but they have a habit of making it into the knock-outs regularly. New Zealand have performed up to a high standard in this tournament, they smashed Bangladesh and only narrowly missed out against Pakistan.
The New Zealanders, have looked more or less a solid side even during their loss to Pakistan in a close game. But they need to work out their opening combination. They started with Rob Nicol and Martin Guptill in their warm-up tie against Australia, while James Franklin opened alongside Guptill in the following tie against South Africa. They continued with the same combination in their first league match against Bangladesh, but chose to field Nicol and Kane Williamson as openers against Pakistan.
But with McCullum having scored enough runs in the previous encounters, captain Ross Taylor may well be tempted to start with Guptill and McCullum at the top against Sri Lanka. Taylor's main worry though will be his side's inconsistent run with the bat. Kiwi batsmen have shown lack of application and they certainly have their work cut-out against a quality Sri Lankan bowling attack. They would hope that the likes of McCullum, Taylor, Jacob Oram and James Franklin fire in unison.
As far as bowling is concerned, the form of veteran Daniel Vettori has been a cause of worry. The left-arm spinner didn't look his best against either Bangladesh or Pakistan and it remains to be seen how he comes up against the Lankans. But Kyle Mills and Tim Southee are expected to stick to their jobs for the Black Caps.
Mahela Jayawardene (c), Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Jeevan Mendis, Dilshan Munaweera, Akila Dananjaya, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Lahiru Thirimanne.
Ross Taylor (capt), Doug Bracewell, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Ronnie Hira, Brendon McCullum (wk), Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Tim Southee, Daniel Vettori, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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