Weather holds key in series opener
November 1, 2012
Start time 0900 local (1430 GMT)
Cricket fans in Sri Lanka must be fed up with the weather. Over the last few months, it has become a habit to keep one eye on the sky. When Pakistan arrived late May, the first two T20s in Hambantota went smoothly without a cloud around. It was hardly a sign of things to come as the teams made their way away from the dry zone for the rest of the series. The groundstaff were on their toes through the ODIs and Tests against Pakistan, the SLPL and the World Twenty20. In fact, the SLPL final itself had a farcical end because of the elements.
Questions were raised as to why administrators in their wisdom would think of organising series during the monsoon. But the current congested cricket calendar doesn't offer much choice. With leagues like the SLPL being shoehorned whenever there is a gap, the weather patterns for those specific weeks seem irrelevant. All one can do is hope for the best.
The pattern didn't change when New Zealand arrived in Pallekele for the one-off Twenty20. Everyone saw it coming - soon after the World Twenty20, rains swept the country. The game got off to a delayed start and only 14 overs were possible in the first innings, as New Zealand limped to 74 for 7. Sri Lanka could only play two overs before the weather had the final say. The forecast isn't encouraging for Thursday's first ODI either, at the same venue.
The tour, for all practical purposes, is yet to begin. New Zealand shouldn't read too much into their showing on Tuesday, despite their familiarity with the venue during the World Twenty20. They were put into bat on a damp pitch which hadn't been exposed to prolonged sunshine in the lead-up. Any batting side would have been challenged in conditions like that. The pitch was under the covers through the eve of the match and another seaming pitch is expected.
Sri Lanka have had a mixed year as far as ODIs are concerned. Despite the highs of reaching the CB Series final in Australia, and beating a strong Pakistan 3-1 at home, the losses have outnumbered the wins (16 to 11). They fell well short of expectations when India visited for a short series and one of the main factors then was the way the Indians got on top of their best bowler, Lasith Malinga. The upcoming five matches are the only remaining ODIs the team will play this year before heading to Australia. It's a chance to improve their record, if the weather permits.
Another aspect to look forward to, from the point of view of ODIs in general, is the new rules introduced by the ICC recently. Bowlers will be allowed two bouncers an over and the Powerplay overs have been culled by five. Besides the mandatory ten Powerplay overs at the start of the innings, the remaining five should be taken by the batting side before the 40th over, with a maximum of three fielders allowed during the batting Powerplay.
(Completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka : LLLWL
New Zealand: LLWLL
Player to watch
Jeevan Mendis has proven to be a useful allrounder in Sri Lanka's limited-overs plans over the last few months. The home series against India in July was his most productive with the bat, with scores of 45* and 72 in the lower middle-order. He has played an effective supporting role to the specialists with his clean hitting in the death overs and legspinners.
Nathan McCullum has just tasted victory in the Champions League and his confidence is high after playing a leading role in Sydney Sixers' crushing win against Lions. McCullum is no stranger to opening with the new ball. His captain Brad Haddin sensed that spin was the way to go, and McCullum responded with 3 for 24 to wreck the top order. If he can be as effective against the likes of Tillakaratne Dilshan, it could give New Zealand early momentum.
The fast bowler Adam Milne has been ruled out of the game because of a stomach bug.
New Zealand (likely) 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Kane Williamson, 6 James Franklin, 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Ronnie Hira
Sri Lanka will be boosted by the return of the regular captain Mahela Jayawardene and Malinga, who were rested from the T20. Given the seaming conditions, Sri Lanka may play just one specialist spinner, among Rangana Herath and Akila Dananjaya.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Dinesh Chandimal/Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Jeevan Mendis, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Rangana Herath/Akila Dananjaya, 11 Lasith Malinga
Stats and trivia
'"I feel sorry for the groundsman. It wasn't an ideal wicket for a Twenty20 match and it was very damp. In saying that we didn't apply ourselves as well as we would have liked."
New Zealand captain Ross Taylor on the opening T20.
"It's a good thing to have bowling options, but it doesn't mean that even though we have the options we must use them. Guys like Thisara or Dilshan who didn't bowl in the recent past can be used in other occasions. They add value to the team with the bat, with the ball and even on the field. That's why we have been more consistent in big tournaments. We have all those options in the team and whenever we require, we can use them."
Mahela Jayawardene on having several allrounders, and hence bowing options, in the team
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo