New Zealand confident of chasing big targets
A washout after 54.2 overs of the series opener did not reveal the condition of New Zealand's young batting order, but both captain Kyle Mills and batsman Tom Latham have backed the team to chase down tall scores ahead of the second match in Hambantota.
New Zealand were 13 for 1 in pursuit of 289 when the rain came, and though three of their top batsmen are missing from this side, the visitors felt they were favourites to win the first game. They would have had to achieve the second-highest total for any team batting second at the venue, but new ODI rules and expanding match aggregates have made large totals gettable, Latham said.
"With the new rules 300 is probably par and to keep them to 280-odd was good," Latham said. "When we were batting it was skidding on quite nicely. We did back ourselves to chase it.
"I can't see the wicket changing too much, but with the new rules - with only four men out - those bigger scores are possible, and we've even seen you can chase them down as well. We'll assess conditions tomorrow and see what the par score is."
Mills also said he was "content" with the position New Zealand had reached on Sunday and expected the pitch to become better for batting in the evening. A firing middle order also bodes well for Tuesday's match, he said.
"Under lights the wicket can sometimes get a little bit quicker with the dew and the sheen on the wicket," Mills said. "I thought that if we get a start, we'd be in with an absolute chance. Our guys (have) played a lot of cricket lately, and we've got some batters who are in some really good form - you've seen that in the last few games."
Both men also singled out Lasith Malinga as a particular threat to their top order, given few of their batsmen have faced him before. Malinga dismissed Anton Devcich in his first over, and had his yorkers humming in the 2.2 overs he bowled in the first match.
"The top three got a little sighting of Malinga in the first match and hopefully that experience can stand them in good stead," Mills said. "He bowled pretty well in his two-and-a-half overs in the first match, and without a doubt he's a challenge. But he's always a challenge no matter where you play him in the world."
Latham, who faced 10 Malinga deliveries and scored four runs suggested defence would be his priority when playing the fast bowler. "He was bowling death on demand, which is quite hard to face with it swinging at pace," Latham said. "He's obviously one of their key bowlers and if we can deny him as much as possible, and look to take down their other bowlers, that's going to give us a good chance in the next two matches."
Latham also said New Zealand were upbeat about their chances in Sri Lanka, despite the recent 0-3 ODI series loss to Bangladesh and the absence of key players. The tour is an opportunity for several young players, including Latham, to embed themselves in the team ahead of their home summer.
"The boys are gelling well together. That T20 win in Bangladesh gave us a lot of confidence. There's a good vibe in the group at the moment. It's a young and inexperienced side, but it's an exciting tour for all involved."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here