A fresh start beckons for Sri Lanka
October 30, 2012
Start time 1900 local (1330 GMT)
The last time these two sides met, they produced perhaps the best match of the World Twenty20 and set the tournament alight after an uninspiring group stage. Just over a month later, New Zealand return with almost the same squad and with similar expectations of victory. For Sri Lanka, that month has seemed an eternity.
They are missing their two best Twenty20 players, who are being rested after the Champions League, but the biggest hindrance to Sri Lanka's success may be the memories of a traumatic World Twenty20 final. Time may have given them perspective - they did better than 10 other teams after all - but they will not have shaken the emptiness in their gut after that title was snatched from them. It is up to the new man at the helm, Angelo Mathews, to re-energise the team and push them past their disappointment, which is a process that took months after their last finals defeat.
New Zealand, meanwhile, will sense their chance to begin the tour strongly, with a wounded and weakened Sri Lanka side to take the field. Pallekele is now almost as familiar to them as it is to the hosts, and a pitch that has seen alarmingly little sunshine over the past week will have plenty in it for their seam bowlers.
And therein lies the biggest concern for this match and the tour in general: to what extent will the monsoon allow it to happen? Large parts of Sri Lanka were in drought when New Zealand were last here, but a few days after the World Twenty20 finished, the rains arrived and have barely ceased since. Neither team could train on the eve of the match, and if the forecasts are correct, no cricket will be played on Tuesday night.
(Completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka : LWWWT
New Zealand: TLTLW
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Shaminda Eranga was the only Sri Lanka bowler to spend the whole World Twenty20 on the sidelines, but he is almost certain to get a game in Lasith Malinga's absence. He has so far made the best of every international opportunity handed to him, which have been few and far between due to injury. He is an agent of swing and is likely to enjoy an under-prepared Pallekele pitch.
Ross Taylor averaged 49 with the bat during the World Twenty20 and scored at a strike-rate of 145.54. If Sri Lanka's spinners don't get a lot of turn, they could be on the receiving end of Taylor's bludgeons over midwicket, at a venue he has taken a liking to across two world tournaments.
Aside from Malinga and Mahela Jayawardene, Ajantha Mendis also misses the tour opener through injury. Off spinner Sachithra Senanayake will play in his stead. Among the batsmen, Lahiru Thirimanne played every match of the World Twenty, but did not make the best of his opportunities and Dinesh Chandimal may come into the middle order at his expense.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Dilshan Munaweera, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Angelo Mathews (capt), 5 Jeevan Mendis, 6 Lahiru Thirimanne/Dinesh Chandimal, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Shaminda Eranga, 10 Sachithra Senanayake, 11 Akila Dananjaya
New Zealand are missing Daniel Vettori on this tour, as he sits out with a bruised heel - though as he had retired from limited-overs cricket and only returned for the World Twenty20, he may not have played this game anyway. Martin Guptill is rested for this match, and Tom Latham will likely replace him as opener.
Nathan McCullum would have just arrived after his Champions League triumph with the Sydney Sixers, but with only two spinners named in the squad, he is likely to play.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 James Franklin, 6 Andrew Ellis, 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Ronnie Hira, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Kyle Mills/ Adam Milne.
'"We lost the World T20 final to West Indies due to a mental factor. If we are to be successful in the future we have to get over that mental block."
Angelo Mathews on the psychological hurdles Sri Lanka face
"There's a different look to this Sri Lankan Twenty20 side, but they will still be competitive on their home track. Experience-wise they can't rely on Mahela and Malinga, but we still need to be on our game to beat them."
Ross Taylor on what Sri Lanka will lack without two of their stars
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka