Daijiworld Media Network
Pallekele, Sep 27 : Welcome one and all to the first match of the knock-out stages. It features the home favorites, Sri Lanka against the unpredictable Kiwis. Both these teams have played nine T20Is against each other and New Zealand have won five matches. In fact, New Zealand have won the last four out of the five encounters against the Lankans. No mean feat when you consider that two matches were won in their backyard. The toss is not far away.
Pitch Report: Tony Greig says, 'The pitch looks flat. It is a new pitch. The pitch is becoming dry and the average score should be somewhere close to 155.'
New Zealand have won the toss and elected to bat
Ross Taylor: 'We will bat and it looks like a good wicket. Guptill replaces Milne. We have seen the SL spinners in the premier league and we have played Mendis in the past. Jacob Oram had a good time in the SLPL and he will be vital.'
Mahela Jayawardene: 'We would have batted first as we had two spinners. Ajantha is 90% fit and he is vital. Dananjaya had a good time in the recent SLPL.'
Sri Lanka (Playing XI): Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene(c), Kumar Sangakkara(w), Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Jeevan Mendis, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Akila Dananjaya Perera
New Zealand (Playing XI): Martin Guptill, James Franklin, Brendon McCullum(w), Ross Taylor(c), Kane Williamson, Rob Nicol, Daniel Vettori, Jacob Oram, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills
Match preview :
The real World Cup is about to start. With no 'minnows' in the super-8s, the tournament is entering an exciting phase where there are no favourites 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 too unlucky and may not be too worried about their form, as their second game (against South Africa) was affected by rain and reduced to just 7 overs. 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.
What clicked: Sri Lanka didn't have to work too hard to get into the super-8s; their crushing victory over Zimbabwe in the tournament sealed the deal and made sure that the second game was a mere formality. The most pleasing aspect in the win over Zimbabwe was their all-round performance. Although all the attention went towards Ajantha Mendis' record bowling spell, it was the batsmen who set up the big win. Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jeevan Mendis made a combined effort and looked in good form, which is a massive bonus for the hosts considering their powerful lower order. The bowling, needless to say, was dominated by spin and it was the Mendises who stole the show; Ajantha opened the tournament with a whopping 6 for 8, while Jeevan Mendis' leg spin earned him 3 wickets in the opening game. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, Ajantha picked up a side strain in the first game and is a doubtful started for the clash against New Zealand.
What didn't click: Sri Lanka's area of concern will be the form of their 2 stalwarts - skipper Mahela Jayawardene and pacer Lasith Malinga. Jayawardene has not got going in both the matches, and although it's by no means a major worry, his form at the top order will be crucial for the hosts in the Super 8s. Malinga, known to be a lethal bowler in this format, has been expensive in both the games (although he has bowled only 4.3 overs), and will look to hit peak form as the tournament enters a crucial phase. Dilshan Munaweera looked totally out of sorts at the top of the order against quality pace bowling, and it will be interesting to see if Sri Lanka continue to back him.
What to expect: Sri Lanka know the conditions inside out and nothing less than a semi-final spot will satisfy their fans. Their biggest strength lies in their all-rounders (Jeevan Mendis, Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera) which lends balance to the side. Their fortunes in the super-8s will depend on the top order though; if the likes of Dilshan, Sangakkara and Mahela give solid starts, Sri Lanka have the fire-power in the lower order to carry them far in the tournament.
What clicked:New Zealand will be happy with the form of their batsmen in the group stages. The highlight of their campaign in this year's World Cup so far has been Brendon McCullum's blazing century in the match against Bangladesh. He smashed 123 off just 58 balls and opened New Zealand's tournament with a huge win which also ensured an entry into the super 8s. The good thing for New Zealand is that almost all their batsmen got a look in in the group stages, which gives Taylor a lot more flexibility. Tim Southee was the stand-out bowler as far as the pacers are concerned, while Nathan McCullum did a fine job in the game against Bangladesh. The experienced Vettori hasn't been among the wickets, but with the pitches starting to assist spinners, expect him to play a big part as the tournament progresses.
What didn't click:New Zealand's major worry starts right from the top; in the 2 league games, they had 2 different opening partners (Gutpill and Franklin against Bangladesh, Nicol and Williamson against Pakistan) and it is always a tricky thing to have an unstable opening pair. They experimented with a few things in their batting order, but as the tournament progresses, they will seek some stability at the top. Jacob Oram's bowling form is the major area of concern in the bowling department; he has conceded 78 runs in 8 overs in the tournament and his poor form affects the balance in the bowling line up.
What to expect: New Zealand may never go into a tournament of a match with the tag of 'favourites', but they know how to do well in major tournaments. A look at history across all formats indicates that this is a side which surprises the best in business when it comes to pressure games, so no team will be taking them lightly at any point. They have the firepower and the balance to their squad, and it will be no surprise if they go deep into the tournament
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