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The Preview by Andrew Fernando
November 9, 2012
Match factsNovember 10, 2012
Big PictureRain may have defined the cricket so far, yet, with two games to go, the series is placed as expected. New Zealand's batsmen have battled to good scores in both competed matches, but the visitors find themselves on the brink of a series defeat once more. That they have fielded second twice - once by their own election - has hampered their bowlers, who have had to contend with a wet ball.
New Zealand have also spoken of a "top heavy" Sri Lanka batting order, but they are yet to dismiss all three of Sri Lanka's old hands in an innings, and as Angelo Mathews proved with a sparkling 47-ball 54 not out, the middle order is by no means a cakewalk either. The visitors would do well not to jettison the conservative batting strategy that has seen them post competitive totals, but the bowlers must exploit the movement afforded them by the damp conditions to incite the top order collapse they have been aiming for.
Sri Lanka meanwhile, have little to change about their game. Lasith Malinga's return to form has ensured New Zealand's totals remain manageable despite the new rules that have disadvantaged the spinners, while the batting is yet to be put under serious pressure. They will however be missing their match-winner from the second ODI, as Tillakaratne Dilshan has been ruled out by a back complaint. Sri Lanka will believe they have enough depth nonetheless, but Dilshan's exit does leave the top order with considerably less firepower.
Form guideSri Lanka: WWLLL(Completed matches, most recent first)
Players to watchThe injury to Dilshan means Mahela Jayawardene is likely to open, and when he does, he is often Sri Lanka's best limited-overs batsman. In 22 ODI innings at the top of the order, Jayawardene averages 49.67 with a strike rate of 92. He has felt that the team is stronger when he bats at four, but if he succeeds at the top of the order again, he can only ignore statistics for so long.
Kane Williamson made two ODI fifties on the recent West Indies tour, but he cannot yet nail down a specific role in the limited-overs teams, and is often pushed down the order when New Zealand are in search of quick runs. He is yet to make an impact on this tour, and will be anxious to get a good innings under his belt soon, lest his ODI place comes under threat from the likes of BJ Watling when Martin Guptill returns to the team.
Teams newsSri Lanka's team management have expressed a desire to give the fringe players in the squad a game, but the selectors will only risk their inexperience if the series has already been secured. Dinesh Chandimal will likely take Jayawardene's spot in the middle order, but the other ten players should remain unchanged.
Sri Lanka: 1. Upul Tharanga, 2. Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 3. Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4. Dinesh Chandimal, 5. Angelo Mathews, 6. Lahiru Thirimanne, 7. Jeevan Mendis, 8. Thisara Perera, 9. Nuwan Kulasekara, 10. Rangana Herath, 11. Lasith Malinga.
No word yet from the New Zealand camp if Andrew Ellis has recovered from his stomach bug, but if he has, he will take his spot in the starting XI back from Jacob Oram. Watling will likely retain the gloves, as New Zealand won't want to risk Brendon McCullum's back with the Test series looming.
New Zealand: 1. BJ Watling (wk), 2. Rob Nicol, 3. Brendon McCullum, 4. Ross Taylor (capt), 5. Kane Williamson, 6. James Franklin, 7. Andrew Ellis, 8. Nathan McCullum, 9. Kyle Mills, 10. Tim Southee, 11. Trent Boult
Pitch and conditionsHambantota was the most seamer-friendly venue of the three during the World Twenty20, and given the amount of rain that has been around, the bowlers are likely to have the better of the surface again. As has been the case for the last two games, rain is forecast for later in the evening, and the toss will again be of some importance.
Quotes"BJ has showed a little bit of a new side to him with his power in the last game. We'll be looking forward to him contributing again, and hopefully a few others can back him up."
"Let's finish this series and I'll see if I can suggest something in writing about the new rules to the ICC. It's not fair for me just to criticise, I have to come up with a proposal as well. We'll sit with Sanga, who is in the MCC Cricket Committee and has already made some comments, and see if we can back up what he has said as well."
Mahela Jayawardene, who has been a critic of the new rule allowing only four fielders outside the circle, on how he hopes to lobby the ICC
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri LankaFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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