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Andrew Fidel Fernando
March 30, 2014
Match factsMonday, March 31, 2014
Crowe: Malinga captaining gives NZ edge
Widely tipped to be the sides to progress from the ''easy'' group, Sri Lanka and New Zealand find they must win their final group match or be eliminated. Things have not so far panned out as either had hoped. England are the top-eight team Sri Lanka might have been most comfortable of beating, but they were undone by the best innings of the tournament so far, while New Zealand were victims of one of Twenty20 cricket's most aggressive final overs, from Dale Steyn. Pitches in Chittagong have not been as slow and low as anticipated, and on occasion, both teams have had their team compositions wrong as well.
Both teams now have a clearer grip on their strategy. New Zealand added seam-bowling cover by introducing James Neesham to their XI, and replaced the out-of-sorts Tim Southee with the dependable Trent Boult. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, will absurdly have had their XI boosted by their captain's suspension. Lahiru Thirimanne is most likely to replace Dinesh Chandimal in the middle order.
On most occasions, New Zealand's ability to blunt Sri Lanka's spinners might shape as a key encounter, but evening games in Chittagong have been unkind to slow bowlers. Sri Lanka rifled through five balls in their last match, as Hales and Eoin Morgan pillaged their way through the middle overs. Sachithra Senanayake has not been a penetrative weapon in any case - though Sri Lanka are likely to leave out Ajantha Mendis for Rangana Herath, whose bowling is less sensitive to the conditions. The forecast suggests dew may indeed materialise on Monday night.
New Zealand will be encouraged to have their top order purring after only two full matches in the tournament. Kane Williamson, Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor have all made commanding fifties, and though Sri Lanka's top four has also been among the runs, they have made them in far less convincing fashion.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Lasith Malinga suggested before the match that captaincy should not be too much of a burden, and he might be right. There are three former captains and a current one in the XI. Even when Chandimal was at the helm, many decisions were formed by committee. Where Malinga may feel a little extra pinch is when it comes to taking wickets. Teams have blocked him out safely so far in the tournament, subduing his penetrative potential in return for 10 or so fewer runs from his four overs. He has reclaimed something of his old form in the past two months, but will now hope for a truly matchwinning performance to send his side into the knockouts.
New Zealand ask a lot from Kane Williamson, given his relative youth. He has been shoved up the order to open in this tournament, and though he may still feel more comfortable in the middle overs, he has been steady in his new role. Though not conventionally thought of as one of New Zealand's matchwinners, Williamson is perhaps New Zealand's best player of spin - particularly in Asia. If Sri Lanka's slow-bowlers can make an impact in the match, a well-set Williamson may be best-placed to counter it.
Pitch and conditions
The Chittagong square has seemingly dried out during the tournament's course, but it is yet to match Mirpur for turn. Skies are expected to remain clear for the match, which of course increases the likelihood of dew forming.
There is a chance legspinning-allrounder Seekkuge Prasanna may replace Ajantha Mendis instead of Herath, but Sri Lanka are likely to go with Herath - the steadier hand.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Mahela Jayawardene, 4 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Lasith Malinga (capt), 11 Rangana Herath
New Zealand have no cause to change their combination following a comfortable win over Netherlands.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Kane Williamson, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt.), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 James Neesham, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Trent Boult, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan
Stats and trivia
"We are playing night games and that's the situation in the tournament. We must know to use those conditions we can't give excuses for our skills. We must know how to play with a wet ball. That's my feeling as a bowler." Sri Lanka acting captain Lasith Malinga on dewy Chittagong nights
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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