Teams look to consolidate towards World T20
Match factsTuesday, November 19, 2013
Start time 1900 local (1330 GMT)
Big PictureIt should perhaps go without saying at this stage in the tour, but once again, rain shapes to be the defining influence of the match. The past two days in Pallekele have been hot and humid, before rain has arrived after dusk, around the time the match is scheduled to begin. Tuesday's forecast is for more of the same.
But if the weather relents long enough to allow a result, both teams have concrete goals for the series. Sri Lanka's first task will be to protect their No. 1 ranking, having maintained it for over a year now. Their longevity atop the points table is perhaps as much a reflection of the infrequency of Twenty20 cricket as Sri Lanka's affinity for it, but it has been a point of pride for the side in a lean year of cricket. They need one win in the two matches to keep their top ranking, unless both matches are washed out.
New Zealand have four Twenty20s scheduled before the World T20 in Bangladesh, which begins this March and this series will be another exercise in building depth. James Neesham and Neil Broom had had match-winning turns for Otago in the Champions League, and if picked, both men will hope to replicate their results on turning pitches, and secure a place in the side bound for the World T20. In Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor's absence, men like Luke Ronchi and Colin Munro have the opportunity to capture the attention of the selectors.
The hosts, however, will seek to finalise their combination for the World T20. They had rotated the seniors to free up a space for a young player in their last T20 series, but captain Dinesh Chandimal has suggested his team will play its best XI this time.
Form guide(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: WLLWW
New Zealand: WWLWL
In the spotlightDoubts about Dinesh Chandimal's aptitude for T20 have been voiced since he was appointed Sri Lanka's captain in the format in February, and though Sri Lanka have only played four T20s since, his ODI form does not suggest fluency in limited-overs cricket. As the team now embarks on the home stretch to the World T20, he must prove to himself, and his team, that he deserves a place in the side he leads.
Nathan McCullum's cricket has gathered steam over the back end of New Zealand's trip to the subcontinent. In Hambantota, he walloped 32 off 9 balls to effect an unlikely win, and in Dambulla, he removed Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara within three balls, and had sparked worry in the opposition, when he blasted another 35 not out with the bat. After that match, Kyle Mills had spoken of the team's confidence in him to finish matches, and Sri Lanka will be aware that even if New Zealand's top order goes cheaply, an in-form match-winner lurks lower down.
Pitch and conditionsThe Pallekele pitch has tended to provide assistance to seam bowling under lights, though on occasion it has also been a happy venue for spinners. If rain is in the air, teams may choose to bowl first, reasoning that it is more difficult to defend a total with a wet ball.
Ramith Rambukwella and Seekkuge Prasanna have been added to Sri Lanka's squad, but it's unlikely they will appear in the XI, unless injury rules a spinner out. Having sat in the dressing room throughout the ODI series, Kusal Perera may be in line for a game at the expense of Lahiru Thirimanne, even if Jayawardene continues to open the innings. But Ajantha Mendis is likely come into the side.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Kusal Perera/ Lahiru Thirimanne, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5. Angelo Mathews, 6. Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 7. Thisara Perera, 8. Nuwan Kulasekara, 9. Sachithra Senanayake, 10. Lasith Malinga, 11. Ajantha Mendis
Neil Broom has a chance of figuring in New Zealand's top order, while Anton Devcich may find his place under threat from Hamish Rutherford after three poor innings in the ODIs. Corey Anderson's absence means Neesham will almost certainly play, while Andrew Ellis' place is less secure.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Anton Devcich/ Hamish Rutherford, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Neil Broom, 4 Grant Elliott, 5 Colin Munro, 6 Luke Ronchi (wk), 7 James Neesham, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Andrew Ellis, 10 Kyle Mills (capt), 11 Mitchell McClenaghan
Stats and trivia
- As an opener, Mahela Jayawardene averages 42.57 and has a strike rate of 138.52. Like in ODIs, these figures are substantially better than his returns lower down the order.
- In five matches in Pallekele, New Zealand have been involved in two ties. Both times, during last year's World T20, they lost in the Super Over.
"We experimented by resting some senior players in the last series, but we have only another six T20 internationals to play prior to the T20 World Cup, so we don't want to experiment too much."
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal is intent on using all his resources
"When it comes to T20 it's a pretty even bunch. On the day if somebody is going to have a good performance, they will contribute to the team which hopefully will win. You can't have a clear stand out team in the T20 format."
New Zealand acting captain Kyle Mills doesn't read too much into the rankings for this format
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here