Daijiworld Media Network
Hambantota, Sep 18: We're all set for the biggest T20 tournament around the globe! Zimbabwe will take on hosts Sri Lanka in the curtain-raiser. Needless to say, the home side is the favourite to clinch the game, but beware of the underdogs - Zimbabwe. The toss will happen at 7 PM, stay with us.
Pitch report: 'There is some grass but it's not a lively, fresh grass. The wicket will not change throughout the game, so the captain winning the toss may want to bowl first.' says Manjrekar.
Zimbabwe have won the toss and elected to field
Mahela: ' The last couple of times, the team batting first won the matches. We're going with 7 batsmen and 4 bowlers. We have a couple of all-rounders as well. Mendis is in and Munaweera will make his debut.'
Taylor: 'It's always good to know what we'll be chasing. We've prepared really well and we're all excited. It's a massive night for us. We don't have much to lose, so just hope to enjoy the tournament.'
Mathews: 'We hope to start well and get some momentum going into the tournament. I think when you're playing at home, the expectations are high. We know the conditions and know what to expect. We can't take Zimbabwe lightly. We can't be complacent, they have done well in the recent past. T20 is a funny game, so we have to be prepared for the challenge.'
Zimbabwe (Playing XI): Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor(w/c), Craig Ervine, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Graeme Cremer, Prosper Utseya, Kyle Jarvis, Brian Vitori, Chris Mpofu
Sri Lanka (Playing XI): Dilshan Munaweera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene(c), Kumar Sangakkara(w), Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Jeevan Mendis, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga
Match Preview :
Hosts Sri Lanka will look to break the jinx and get their hands on the T20 World Cup when the tournament bowls off in Colombo on the 18th of September. The hosts will be hoping for a rousing start to their campaign when they take on Zimbabwe in the opening match of the tournament. While Sri Lanka are the clear favourites, the African team are more than decent side in the shorter formats, and are capable of beating the best in business on their day. The World T20 gives them yet another opportunity to impress in the big arena.
The main strength for a team taking part in a big tournament is to be playing in familiar conditions. Sri Lanka have that comfort in this edition of the T20 World Cup with the matches being held in the Island Nation. The likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan have scored tons of runs at home and will be eager to do the same when the tournament begins. Apart from these three, Sri Lanka also have a lot of talented players in the line-up which lends balance to the batting order. The likes of Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne are efficient, if not world-class batsmen while Angelo Mathews and Jeevan Mendis are able all-rounders, who have the ability to win matches on their own. In the pace department, the presence of Lasith Malinga is a big strength to the home side while Nuwan Kulasekara and Shaminda Eranga are also more than capable of troubling the opposition batsmen. The spin arsenal consists of Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis and an unseen but a promising prospect according to skipper Jayawardene in Akila Dananjaya. Overall, Sri Lanka have a well-balanced side and all they need is for these above mentioned names to click as a unit.
While playing in home conditions may seem like a strength, it sometimes can prove to be the weakness of a side. The pressure of playing in front of the local crowd can play on the nerves of Sri Lanka as there will be that much more expectation for them to deliver. Form-wise, their middle order having not been in good scoring form in T20Is over the last couple of years, which puts that much more pressure on Mahela, Dilshan and Sangakkara. Ajantha Mendis has been Sri Lanka's best spin bowler in T20 World Cups but the fact that he has not been playing regularly for the hosts and the fact that the likes of Herath, Jeevan and Dananjaya have very little T20I experience between them, makes the Sri Lankan spin attack a relatively weak one.
There is a 'surprise' factor associated with Zimbabwe which makes it impossible to write them off. Australia found that out in 2007, and one of South Africa or Sri Lanka might be at the receiving end this time. They have a more than decent squad in place and are led by a captain who is respected as a batsman – Brendan Taylor. Their batting has quite a few powerful hitters apart from the captain – Masakadza, Chigumbura and Craig Ervine form the crux of the line up, and the bowling has some variations too. Brian Vitori and Kyle Jarvis have made impressive starts to their careers, while Ray Price and Prosper Utseya add to the spin options. They have a balanced squad in place, and with the kind of fielding they are capable of producing, they might just have it in them to repeat the surprise factor.
Zimbabwe's biggest problem has been the lack of consistency. They are capable of winning a game or two but you wouldn't expect them to go far in the tournament. Their recent results shows this trend as well – they won the tri series involving South Africa but lost their warm ups to Bangladesh and Irelend. Zimbabwe will have to play beyond their potential to qualify from a tough group, and do that consistently to proceed far in the tournament.
Players to watch:
Everyone is aware that the mere presence of Lasith Malinga in the Lankan team will send shivers down the opposition batsmen and to add to it, the quickie happens to be Sri Lanka's best bowler in T20 World Cups, which shows that he thrives on the big stage. Apart from his toe-crushing yorkers and lethal pace, the bowler also possesses a variety of deliveries that will always keep the batsmen guessing.
Zimbabwe's young pace duo of Kyle Jarvis and Brian Vitori have made decent starts to their careers, which has increased expectations from the side. They have the variations between them, and their performances could define that of their side.
Stats and Milestones:
Jayawardene and Sangakkara hold the record for the second best partnership in T20Is. Their stand of 166 against West Indies in 2010 is only bettered by the pair of Graeme Smith and Loots Bosman, who had added 170 runs against England in 2009.
19, 83 and 90: The numbers of runs Jayawardene, Dilshan and Sangakkara require respectively to reach the mark of 1000 runs in Twenty20 Internationals. At present, only Brendon McCullum and Kevin Pietersen have crossed the 1000 run mark in the 20-over format.
Ajantha Mendis has the best figures by a bowler in T20Is. His 6/16 against Australia in 2011 is the first and only instance of a bowler picking up a six-wicket haul in Twenty20 Internationals.
Hamilton Masakadza is the only Zimbabwe player to have scored more than 500 runs in Twenty20 Internationals and he holds the record for the highest individual score for Zimbabwe in T20Is. Masakadza's 79 against Canada in October 2008 is Zimbabwe's highest individual score, followed by Brendan Taylor's 75* against New Zealand in February 2012.
A lot of people have asked us why we have choked in the finals. I'd rather be in that situation than being knocked out in earlier rounds. So that means we are doing something pretty good in these big tournaments and we hope to continue that in World Twenty20: Mahela Jayawardene.
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