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March 30, 2014
A spot in the semi-finals of the World T20 could well be heavily weighted on the toss of a coin when Sri Lanka take on New Zealand for one remaining spot in Group 1, but stand-in captain Lasith Malinga will refuse to use a wet ball and damp outfield as an excuse and believes his side are better prepared after coming unstuck against England.
Sri Lanka could not defend 189 as Alex Hales clubbed an unbeaten 116, the expensive performance of Ajantha Mendis, who conceded 52 off his four overs, proving especially telling and the spinner may pay the price for the crunch game. Malinga was also less effective than is so often the case, going wicketless and at almost eight an over during his four overs.
"When we play night games we must know to use those conditions. We can't give excuses against a wet ball and things like that. That's my feeling as a bowler," he said. "In the bowling sometimes we are on top but in the last few overs against England we didn't do very well."
"Now it's in the past and we are looking forward to the next match. We had a good training session yesterday and today and we know how to adjust to situations like dew and when the ball becomes slippery. We are all prepared."
Malinga, the team's T20 vice-captain since October 2012, said that he was under no extra pressure leading his country for the first time even though so much was at stake. He has been forced into this position after Dinesh Chandimal was suspended for one match for his team being penalised twice for slow over rate within a 12-month period.
"It's a good feeling to captain my country for the first time. I really like to get challenged in my bowling or in my career," he said. "This is a good opportunity for me. The other thing this is it is a crucial game and I am not thinking too much about the captaincy but to just to give 100% and win the match tomorrow.
"I have a lot of good support from some experienced T20 captains in the side like Mahela, Kumar , Dilshan and Angelo . As captain I want every single player to prove his skills in tomorrow's game."
Sri Lanka and New Zealand have met each other on 12 occasions and are tied at five wins apiece, with Sri Lanka having won the last two meetings. The teams also have the experience of a Super Over when the World T20 match at Pallekele in 2012 ended in a tie.
"We have no choice but to win the match if we want to get qualified for the semi-finals. However, as a team, we're in very good shape, I mean mentally. If you look at the last few games that we played, we've played well to win them," Malinga said.
"In our recent tournaments, we've always won the crucial match and came into the finals. We handled that pressure well.
With England playing Netherlands in the first match of the day, Malinga said that his team will follow closely that game to see how the pitch behaves before deciding on their final eleven. Batsman Lahiru Thirimanne is expected to replace Chandimal, but the bowling remains unclear with either Rangana Herath or Seekkhuge Prasanna in line to replace the struggling Mendis.
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala