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The Preview by Andrew Fidel Fernando
November 20, 2013
Match factsThursday, November 21, 2013
Big PictureFans who have followed this series so far may want to sit down before reading the following sentence: rain is not expected to affect the second Twenty20.
By even Sri Lankan monsoon standards, New Zealand's tour has been a miserably soggy one. Fewer than half the scheduled overs have been played, and two of the four matches were washed out. Even the games that produced results did not avoid controversy. Sri Lanka were hampered by a wet ball in their loss in Hambantota, and a irrepressible Nathan McCullum was denied the chance to chase unlikely victory by bad light, in Dambulla.
So in many ways, the whole tour rests on this final match - as long as the weather forecast proves accurate. If Sri Lanka win it, they can claim to have had the better of their opposition, as they were expected to do. A New Zealand victory, meanwhile, will be a coup, and a substantial boost to their confidence ahead of their next subcontinent assignment: the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, four months hence.
The thorniest of the visitors' obstacles is perhaps Sri Lanka's bowling. Almost every member of the hosts' attack feels comfortable at Pallekele, and they have won all but one of their seven completed matches at the venue. In that time, Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis have taken five-wicket hauls, and Nuwan Kulasekara has carved out a bowling average better than his overall figures.
New Zealand will hope, though, that their own attack, which possesses the type of seam bowlers who have done well at Pallekele, can get through a daunting top four and into that less steady middle order. It is what they have talked about doing all tour, a plan that they have found difficult to put in practice, as many other sides have, in the recent past.
Form guide(last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlightBefore the second match, New Zealand's acting captain talked of Ajantha Mendis as a particular threat to the inexperienced batsmen who have not seen him before. Although New Zealand are sure to have watched plenty of Mendis video in their preparation, in the past, Mendis' threat has only ever been dulled by actually having played him in a match. Almost pigeonholed as a Twenty20 player now, Mendis remains one of the best bowlers in the format, but he will want to impose himself again, with competition for spin bowlers' places in the team having heated up.
Terrific when he's good, but pretty poor on a bad day, Mitchell McClenaghan has done little to allay the notion that left-armers named Mitch are not pillars of consistency. He had a forgettable tour of Bangladesh, where he was expensive in every match, and was perhaps the worst of the New Zealand bowlers in the first ODI in Sri Lanka as well. After being dropped for the second ODI, though, he came back with what Mills said was his best performance of the tour, in Dambulla, taking 2 for 34 in seven overs. If he can keep that form up, he may be one of his side's best assets on one of the most seam-friendly surfaces in the subcontinent.
Team newsIt is unlikely Sri Lanka will try anything fancy in this match, and will instead play its best XI, with eyes on that trophy. The major question is whether Kusal Perera will get a match, which Dinesh Chandimal suggested he is likely to do. If he does not play, Mahela Jayawardene is likely to open the innings and Lahiru Thirimanne will remain in the middle order.
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
An injury to allrounder James Neesham's finger means he is ruled out of this match, which may clear the path for fast bowler Adam Milne's return. Anton Devcich has not fired with the bat this tour, and Hamish Rutherford will be pushing for a place again, while Neil Broom will likely replace Rob Nicol in the top order.
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
Pitch and conditionsThe Pallekele pitch has tended to provide assistance to seam bowling under lights, though it has also been a happy venue for spinners. There is a small chance of afternoon rain, which may mean the covers stay on during the day, which in turn may provide yet more assistance to the quick men.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"Kusal Perera is immensely talented. He can win a game on his own, but he needs to get more experience. He had done well in domestic cricket and for the A team. If he is up there when we get closer to the World T20, he will be on one of our key match-winners."
"Mendis is a quality player. We expected him to play in the one-day series, so we did a bit of research and scouting - especially for the new guys that haven't seen him before. We're anticipating he'll play on Thursday night."
New Zealand acting captain Kyle Mills
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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