The fight for the semi-finals begins
Match factsSeptember 27, 2012
Start time 1530 local (1000GMT)
The teams that made it through an all-too-predictable first round are now in a more demanding environment. By design and chance, the sides that topped each of the four groups are in one Super Eights pool, while those that finished second are in the other; the grouping gives these games a context the earlier ones lacked.
The first Super Eights game is between the hosts Sri Lanka and New Zealand, two teams that had different group experiences. Sri Lanka were barely tested by Zimbabwe and then lost a seven-over lottery to South Africa. They played those games in Hambantota and have now moved to Pallekele, where they haven't had a net session at the venue of Thursday's match. They trained in Kandy instead. The hosts also have to decide on whether to play Ajantha Mendis, who suffered a side strain, and whether to open the batting with Dilshan Munaweera, or give Mahela Jayawardene the job he's so good at. As they enter the demanding phase of the World Twenty20, Sri Lanka are still settling in.
New Zealand, on the other hand, had two full and more competitive outings, winning against Bangladesh and losing to Pakistan. Those games were in Pallekele too, so they are familiar with the venue, which has assisted pace more than spin and been a good one to bat at.
Form guide(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWLLW
New Zealand: LWWLL
Watch out for
New Zealand's batting order: In the game against Pakistan, Kane Williamson opened the batting, while Daniel Vettori went in at No. 4 and Ross Taylor at No. 6. None of them had batted in those positions in a Twenty20 international before. James Franklin had opened against Bangladesh but was the No. 7 in the second game. Apart from Martin Guptill at the top and Brendon McCullum at No. 3, New Zealand's opponents don't really know the identity of the next man in. The benefits of such an approach are debatable. Having come in so late against Pakistan, Taylor had to take risks from the start because of a massive asking rate. He managed 26 off 10 balls before he was run out attempting an impossible second to try and get back on strike. Surely New Zealand will want their match-winner to have the opportunity to bat longer than that?
Akila Dananjaya: If Mendis is not fully fit, Sri Lanka's newest spinner could be unveiled in Pallekele. Dananjaya reportedly bowls a legbreak, googly, carrom ball, doosra and a stock offspinner with astounding control. Very few have seen him bowl because he was selected from obscurity. New Zealand have coped satisfactorily against spin so far in this tournament and they will be tested again tomorrow.
If Mendis is passed fit, then he could replace his replacement Rangana Herath, who played against South Africa. If he isn't, Sri Lanka have to decide between the control Herath offers and the novelty that Dananjaya will bring. The other question is whether Munaweera will continue to partner Tillakaratne Dilshan at the top of the batting order, or whether Jayawardene will promote himself.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 3 Dilshan Munaweera, 4 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Jeevan Mendis, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis/Akila Dananjaya/Rangana Herath.
New Zealand had played the extra bowler in Adam Milne against Pakistan because their opener Martin Guptill had a hamstring strain. Guptill was expected to recover in time for tomorrow's game so he could replace Milne, who bowled one over for 12 runs.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Rob Nicol, 3 Brendon McCullum (wk), 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Ross Taylor (capt), 6 Jacob Oram, 7 James Franklin, 8 Daniel Vettori, 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 TimSouthee, 11 Kyle Mills.
Pitch and conditions
Neither team has had a look at the pitch yet so not much is know of it apart from the fact that previous Pallekele surfaces have been better for seam bowling than spin. The weather forecast is cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms.
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand have won four of their last five Twenty20 internationals against Sri Lanka, and two of those victories were in Sri Lanka.
- Sri Lanka have not yet won a Twenty20 international at home while chasing. They've lost six games batting second.
- Mahela Jayawardene's scored 229 runs in nine Twenty20 innings against New Zealand at a strike-rate of 145. Ajantha Mendis' economy-rate against New Zealand in T20s is 5.47 and his ten wickets in six games have come at an average of 12.60.
"We're the only team likely to play at three different venues. It hasn't beensort of home advantage all the way. But hopefully the determination comes through and we're able to play with a lot of character tomorrow."
Sri Lanka coach Graeme Ford on the challenges his team is facing in the World Twenty20
"[Jacob Oram's] been telling us about the local players we might not have heard much of as well as about the conditions. He was probably the form bowler [in the SLPL], and he plays a vital role in our team as well."
New Zealand captain Ross Taylor on the value of Jacob Oram's SLPL experience.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo