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September 7, 2009
Match factsTuesday September 8
Sri Lanka, after consecutive Twenty20 defeats, and New Zealand, after a 50-over warm-up defeat to Sri Lanka A on Sunday, will attempt to kick-start the Compaq Cup on Tuesday, though the weather threatens to be a dampener. Scattered thunderstorms are predicted for each of the days this week and a short four-game tournament, already being criticised for its duration and practicality, needs to be competitive throughout to silence growing criticism of the 50-over game's future.
Sri Lanka, almost always formidable opponents on their own soil, do not start as favourites. New Zealand took plenty of confidence from two night wins at the Premadasa last week and they know their biggest shot at winning is getting into Sri Lanka's top order. New Zealand have repeatedly highlighted the importance of dismissing Tillakaratne Dilshan early to put pressure on Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, leaving a shaky lower order sweating.
Successive middle-order muddles during the Twenty20s left Kumar Sangakkara ruing the lack of application and calling on the players to introspect going into this series. Sri Lanka will hope that Sanath Jayasuriya finds form at a venue in which he has scored 2373 runs at 38.27, but contributions from the likes of Angelo Mathews and Chamara Kapugedera will be equally important. Another worry for the home side is that Muttiah Muralitharan is in some doubt after not recovering entirely from a groin strain sustained on day five of the SSC Test, and both teams will keenly await news on his fitness tomorrow.
New Zealand did little wrong in the Twenty20s. Their response to Dilshan's onslaught in game one was calm and their batting and bowling more than efficient during the series clincher. Their effective handling of Ajantha Mendis - who caused nightmares at Trent Bridge this summer - was another reason behind their victory over Sri Lanka.
Form guideSri Lanka LLWWW
Watch out for...Nuwan Kulasekara had a fantastic 2008 in ODI cricket, and he translated that into a Man-of-the-Series performance in the home Tests against Pakistan. He was rested for the second Test against New Zealand keeping in mind Sri Lanka's heavy limited-overs workload, and returns to the format which he has dominated. In 15 matches in 2009, he has taken 26 wickets at 22.80 and has become Sri Lanka's premier one-day quick bowler.
Brendon McCullum has earned a reputation as on of the most feared hitters in international cricket, and after easing back to form with 49 in the second Twenty20 international, spoke of a calmness at the crease that was missing during the Tests. Seven years after his debut, McCullum still has only one ODI century; after warning his tri-series opponents about how his confidence has returned, he'll fancy his chances of improving that count in this series.
Team newsMurali's fitness will be evaluated later this evening and tomorrow morning before the game and Sri Lanka are hopeful he will be ready. Sri Lanka may hand young left-handed batsman Gihan Rupasinghe a debut, meaning Angelo Mathews may drop down a spot. Thilan Thushara will come back into the side after missing the Twenty20s and forms a potent pace attack along with Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga.
Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Chamara Kapugedera, 6 Gihan Rupasinghe, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Thilan Thushara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Lasith Malinga.
Daniel Vettori, Ross Taylor and Shane Bond will be back after sitting out the warm-up loss on Sunday. Bond will replace Daryl Tuffey, who is not part of the ODI squad. If Brendon McCullum is given the wicketkeeping role then both Grant Elliott and Neil Broom, neither of whom did anything of note against Sri Lanka A, could feature. The second spinner's spot will be a toss-up between Jeetan Patel and Nathan McCullum, who impressed in the second Twenty20 and the practice match and brings more depth in batting and fielding.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Brendon McCullum (wk), 2 Jesse Ryder, 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Jacob Oram, 6 Grant Elliot, 7 Neil Broom, 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Shane Bond.
Pitch and conditionsThe pitch at the Premadasa is a dry one and favours batting. Going by the recent trend, the side winning the toss will almost certainly opt to bat. The weather cannot be discounted, however, with rain never too far from Colombo. Scattered showers are forecast. The Premadasa is tied with the SSC as the grounds to have hosted the maximum number of washed out games - six each - and if the prediction turns out to be accurate, this ground could sneak to the top of a rather unflattering category.
Stats and Trivia
Since 2004, the team winning the toss has batted first on 24 out of 30 occasions. In the last 11 ODIs, teams chose to bat every time and the result went their way on each occasion.
"If you know a trend, you know the past, you try and go out there and change it."
Sangakkara reacts to a question about conditions and the toss at the Premadasa.
"It's been good to have him back. He's a smart bowler. He probably doesn't have the genuine pace he had in the VB Series a couple of years ago  but he's certainly a better bowler with the ability to read the game and read a player."
Brendon McCullum is glad to be back keeping wicket to Shane Bond.
"You can't really write him off, can you? He's got so much experience; he's been tearing attacks apart over the years, so we're not writing him off."
McCullum hasn't read too much into Jayasuriya's prolonged run of bad form.
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?