New Zealand return to Jade Stadium full of confidence
A win would put New Zealand firmly into fourth place in the world rankings while Sri Lanka would drop out of the all-important top six teams guaranteed direct entry into the Champions Trophy tournament later in the year. New Zealand lead the five-match series against Sri Lanka 2-0 - resumed last Saturday after it was abandoned following the Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26, 2004 - and relish the opportunity to return to the Jade Stadium where just three weeks ago they produced a world-record run chase of 332 to beat Australia in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.
In their last 12 matches at this venue, New Zealand have won nine - including the last five when in their favoured position of batting second. Daniel Vettori, the current New Zealand captain, said they would like to bat second again on Tuesday after easily topping Sri Lanka's total of 164 with seven wickets remaining on Saturday. New Zealand have kept an unchanged squad from Queenstown, and the Jade Stadium wicket is expected to provide another batting bonanza.
"We'll look to bowl first and make the most of that Supersub the second time round with Nathan (Astle). It's not 100 percent confirmed but I'll be surprised if there are any changes," Vettori said. "I would (like the option to bat first). But it's also about balancing up what's best for the team and how to push the team forward."
Despite their success in batting second, Vettori conceded he would like the team to mix up their approach in case they became too accustomed to hunting a target instead of setting one. The team also have to consider the pitches they're likely to face in the 2007 World Cup with West Indian pitches prone to dying later in the match favouring the team batting first. "At the moment we just want to win games and we see chasing as our best option of winning."
If Shane Bond, Kyle Mills and Jacob Oram, New Zealand's frontline bowlers, can repeat Saturday's performance in extracting the extra bounce to trouble Sri Lanka's batsmen, the remaining matches at Wellington and Napier could be seen as dead rubbers.
Tom Moody, the Sri Lankan coach, said he did not expect any major alteration to his squad, but whoever fronted up had to cope better with the wicket. "We've come from subcontinent conditions and been in India for two months, then gone straight down into a very good bouncy cricket wicket and we didn't adjust as well as we could," he said. "Whether it's confidence to execute their game in different conditions, or whether it's self confidence, only time will tell, but the players are very determined to turn things around."
Moody refrained from reading his team the riot act, but admitted there had been some frank discussions about their play in the opening match of the series. He also denied that Sri Lanka were lacking confidence after their recent 6-1 loss in India.
* * * *
New Zealand (probable) Lou Vincent, Jamie How, Peter Fulton, Hamish Marshall, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram, Chris Cairns, Brendon McCullum (wkt), Daniel Vettori (capt), Kyle Mills, Shane Bond. Supersub Nathan Astle