ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 1st semi-final, World Cup 2011, Colombo

An awesome pair and the battle of flashiness

ESPNcricinfo looks at the key contests in the semi-final between Sri Lanka and New Zealand in Colombo

Firdose Moonda in colombo

March 28, 2011

Comments: 9 | Text size: A | A

Nathan McCullum and Mahela Jayawardene exchanged words after the catch that wasn't, New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Group A, World Cup 2011, Mumbai, March 18, 2011
Sri Lanka's middle order will have to make sure New Zealand's spinners don't put the squeeze on them © Getty Images

Tim Southee v Sri Lanka's openers
With over 757 runs in seven matches and four centuries between them, Sri Lanka's opening pair of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga is the most solid one of the tournament. Besides the obvious advantage of being a right and left-hand combination, the pair have dominated seam and spin with equal disdain. Of all the opening combinations that Tim Southee has had to bowl to, this will be the most challenging. He did get the better of both in the group match between the two teams, dismissing Dilshan with a short ball and running out Tharanga. He is also New Zealand's top wicket-taker in the tournament so far, and his ability to swing the ball sets up an interesting clash with the openers.

Fielding v fielding
Sri Lanka have been acknowledged as the best subcontinent fielding side in the competition, with their dedication resulting in spectacular catches. They've put in a special effort to stop singles in the ring and cut off any easy run flow. Now, they're up against a team whose fielding was the basis of their win in the quarter-final. Jacob Oram's catch that dismissed Jacques Kallis and the run-out which saw AB de Villiers depart were the two moments that turned the game in Mirpur in New Zealand's favour. New Zealand's fielders flung their bodies around, saving singles everywhere, to frustrate the South Africa batsmen. Sri Lanka should be prepared for the ball to hit a concrete wall and not a gap a lot of the time.

Lasith Malinga v Brendon McCullum
This could easily be called the battle of flashiness. One has a blonde mop and an unconventional action, while the other has a tattooed upper body and a wide selection of shots. One likes to bowl flashy, the other likes to bat flashy. The most intriguing part of their battle will be Malinga's yorker against McCullum's paddle. When McCullum got an international Twenty20 century against Australia in February 2010, he repeatedly paddled Shaun Tait's yorkers up and over fine leg, often for six.

Sri Lanka's middle order v Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum
The New Zealand spinners may not have as many variations as Sri Lanka's but they do have the same ability to take the game away from the opposition. Squeeze is the word they abide by, and in squeezing they get wickets; McCullum more so than Vettori, who has only two to his name this tournament but at an economy rate that a Test bowler would be proud of. Sri Lanka's middle order, from No. 5 onwards, hasn't had the best of tournaments so far, mostly because the openers haven't given them a chance to, but they're still the most fragile thing about the team. Angelo Mathews, Thilan Samaraweera and Chamara Silva will have to work hard for their runs against the two spinners, which could prove tricky considering how little time they have spent at the crease.

Muttiah Muralitharan v Ross Taylor
This is the resumption of a battle that the wily offspinner won when the teams first met in the group stages. Taylor was on a high, having scored a century against Pakistan and a 74 against Canada. He was off to another start in the match against Sri Lanka when Muralitharan came on. Taylor wasn't able to score a run in the first six balls he faced off Muralitharan and the seventh ball trapped him lbw. Taylor hasn't fired after that and may be looking to do it here, but he'll have Muralitharan standing in his way.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Comments: 9 
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Posted by Gathika on (March 29, 2011, 7:53 GMT)

@Andrew If you are talking about a good bowling attack you will straight away put NZ away...You can't bring Wasim and McGrath at same time time to create a good bowling attack...These are the bowling attacks of today world........

Posted by Abhishek on (March 29, 2011, 6:15 GMT)

how can you claim sri lanka as the best fielding side in the sub continent after their gaffes in the quater final match against england. New Zealand's fielding is much much better.

Posted by Dshan on (March 29, 2011, 6:10 GMT)

NZ pace attack would really help less in this surface....should be another big partnership among SL operners.

Posted by Yasir on (March 29, 2011, 5:41 GMT)

I think scrappy Srilankan fielding in last match should have been mentioned... in fielding NZL has the clear edge...

Posted by Amal on (March 29, 2011, 3:55 GMT)

Right now all Indian supporters back NZ to win this battle assuming their win against Pakistan. BUT... in case Pakistan go through to the finals, SL are the best team to live up to Indian expectations (to bar Pakistan winning the title.) This is interesting... My prediction, just one upset will happen in1st or 2nd Semi, and it is not SL Vs India in Mumbai. Only one will go to the Final and will make it.

Posted by Sarathi on (March 29, 2011, 2:51 GMT)

SL got very unorthodox bowling attack.which is so unique and non of the team have such to compare with it.They are more dangerous to any specially in their den.Stick to basics and do normal stuffs is not gonna give u the victory in SL specially against this SL side..what SL lack is heavy middle order.but we cant forget Samaraweera.he is a good test player and scored a century against NZ in this venue recently when NZ was in SL last year.Also Mathews and Chamara Silva are two talented players.What they lack is good match practice.They will come good if they get a chance.They will raise their fielding to the place where it was before the QF match.So SL becomes more balanced and tough to beat at Finals.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 28, 2011, 21:52 GMT)

While the SL openers have put up some very impressive numbers it must be of note that against PAK, AUS & NZ (the only decent bowling attacks they have faced) they have a top partnership of 76 (vPAK) and a high score of 41 (vPAK.) In that game PAK opened with Razzaq, and against NZ & AUS neither reached double figures in either game. NZ needs to more wary about having Sangakara & Jayawardene at the crease together. In their last game it was that partnership alone that helped SL to a good total and they have both dined out against NZ numerous times in the past, whereas Dilshan and Tharanga have poor records v NZ. I hope NZ play Tuffey over Woodcock so they are more aggressive in a wicket taking role, tight disciplined bowling may work well against other teams but not SL, especially not in SL.

Posted by akshay on (March 28, 2011, 20:49 GMT)

Though I'm supporting the underdogs, I feel their inconsistency is going to make the difference and SL can quite easily tear them apart on home conditions, they are not a side that will buckle under pressure or break down so the NZ have to develop a plan B and C as well to fall back on. Their Batting has to click though to give them any fighting chance against SL, a total below 250 is too easy for the Lions.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 28, 2011, 19:21 GMT)

sri lanka obviously looks the stronger but me is supporting new zealand the underdogs which can raise their game with small contributions here and there, just hope that i will have no nails to cut the next day

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