New Zealand hope Bond return will change fortunes
Wednesday September 2
Start time 19.00 (13.30 GMT)
After a Test series in which they were run ragged by Sri Lanka, two Twenty20 internationals will probably be a welcome release for some of the New Zealand players. There is little riding on the outcome of two Twenty20 internationals except perhaps the chance to take an edge into the ensuing 50-over tri-series and New Zealand have been talking serious business in the build-up.
On paper, a promising bat-versus-ball extravaganza is promised in either innings; Sanath Jayasuriya and Tillakaratne Dilshan against Shane Bond - set for an international return - and Daniel Vettori, and, as the teams change over, Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor against Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga. New Zealand will take some confidence from the fact that Muttiah Muralitharan won't be playing due to injury. Bond's return adds depth with the ball, so although Sri Lanka have been comfortably superior in recent weeks New Zealand may hope that changes in the coming days.
Failing to win the World Twenty20 in England this summer, having done so well to reach the final, frustrated Sri Lanka and being soundly beaten in the one-off against Pakistan at home was no balm. The last time these two met, during the World Twenty20, Sri Lanka came out with a 48-run win in a pressure situation at Trent Bridge. On that occasion New Zealand were bamboozled by a magical spell of 3 for 9 from Mendis and ousted from a tournament where their batting failed to fire. The way the batsmen have faced spin so far on tour, Vettori will hope history doesn't repeat itself.
Form guide (last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLWWW
New Zealand LLWLW
Watch out for...
The return of Shane Bond. A spate of persistent injuries had already forced Bond to retire from Tests but in a dramatic turnaround of events he quit the ICL and is now on the verge of an international return. Bond's Twenty20 international record (12 wickets from nine games at 20.33) isn't the best and he'll be aiming to improve that rather than get overawed by the occasion. This is a crucial moment in New Zealand cricket.
Sanath Jayasuriya has been overshadowed by Dilshan's heroics in recent times but that doesn't mean the swashbuckler has necessarily run out of gas. After three patchy one-day games and a Twenty20 against Pakistan Jayasuriya is under pressure to justify his place in Sri Lanka's plans at the age of 40, so what better opportunity to remind everyone of his worth than against New Zealand? After all, he averages 56.00 with bat and 14.80 with ball against them, with two Man-of-the-Match awards.
It's been a low-key tour for Brendon McCullum and now is the time for New Zealand's most explosive batsman to stand up. The owner of the most famous century in Twenty20 cricket has had his share of troubles in the Tests and will look at the arena where he has been so successful to revive his fortunes. McCullum has yet to cross 39 in four matches against Sri Lanka, a stat that may just be at the back of his mind. After a poor Test series, McCullum is back for this contest, and may just take out his ire at the criticism he's attracted. Sufficed to say, this man is itching for another bout of big hitting.
Murali has been ruled out with a groin injury that flared up on day five at the SSC and the legspinner Malinga Bandara has been drafted in in his place. Opener Upul Tharanga has been rested and he has been replaced by the allrounder Farveez Maharoof. The other spinning allrounder, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, may also slot in. Angelo Mathews will return and there may be a debut for the rookie batsman Gihan Rupasinghe. Sri Lanka's fast bowling attack is boosted by Lasith Malinga.
Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt/wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Chamara Kapugedera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Farveez Maharoof, 8 Thilan Thushara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Kaushal Lokuarachichi/Malinga Bandara, 11 Lasith Malinga.
New Zealand are likely to draft in a number of players with Bond's return topping the bill. Bond and Kyle Mills will likely step into the role Chris Martin and Iain O'Brien filled during the Tests. Vettori didn't confirm Mills' selection but added that there will be a toss-up between Ian Butler and Nathan McCullum, who bowls offspin. Peter McGlashan will keep wickets to allow Brendon McCullum to clear his shoulders at the top. McCullum's opening partner is slotted to be Ryder, meaning a likely promotion to No. 5 for Jacob Oram. The other allrounder's spot will be contested between Neil Broom and Grant Elliott.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Brendon McCullum (wk), 2 Jesse Ryder, 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Jacob Oram, 6 Neil Broom/Grant Elliott, 7 Peter McGlashan (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Shane Bond, 11 Nathan McCullum/ Ian Butler
Pitch and conditions
Scattered thunderstorms are forecast for game day. Only two Twenty20s have been played here and one both occasions the reputation of the Premadasa forced the team winning the toss to bat. Chasing under lights has always been difficult at the venue but India's Pathan brothers proved it could be done.
Stats and Trivia
- McCullum is the leading run-scorer in Twenty20 internationals, with 689 in 26 games at an average of 31.31 and a strike rate of 123.69. The leader for Sri Lanka, and second in the world, is Jayasuriya, with 541 runs at 30.05 and a strike rate of 138.36.
- Sri Lanka and New Zealand have met each other four times in Twenty20s, with Sri Lanka leading the head-to-head 3-1. New Zealand's only victory came in Auckland in December 2006 to share the series.
- Sri Lanka have yet to win a Twenty20 at the Premadasa in two attempts.
"He's over 40 but doesn't need any motivation. You look at him at practice, running around like a kid, full of enthusiasm and you realise just what a special player he is."
Kumar Sangakkara defends Sanath Jayasuriya's presence in the Twenty20 team
"Well, it just gets better! That makes it easier because he's a quality bowler so those are the differences between the last game."
Vettori, when told during a press conference that Murali is not playing, points out a key difference from Trent Bridge.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo