Teams seek bright start to campaign
Match FactsFriday, April 30, Providence
Start time 1300 (1700 GMT)
The Big PictureThe World Twenty20 kicks off with two teams that look good on paper but haven't quite hit their straps in the format. Sri Lanka have the potential to be one of the most dangerous Twenty20 sides in the world, yet have lost five of their last six games. New Zealand boast several match-winners, but lose more than they win. Daniel Vettori's men have the advantage of recent form, having succeeded in both their warm-up games while Sri Lanka lost to South Africa.
Whatever happens, don't be surprised if the scores are low in Providence, where the slow surface has been difficult to score on during the practice matches. Adding to the challenge for the batsmen, both teams have high-quality spinners who will relish the conditions. Nathan McCullum has opened in both New Zealand's warm-ups and will be a handy ally for Vettori, while Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan need no introduction. Although it is a pleasant change seeing batsmen forced to work hard, the one disappointment about the lack of speed and potential dominance of spin is it reduces the chances of a Dilscoop v McScoop battle.
Form guide (most recent first)New Zealand TLWLL
Sri Lanka LWLLL
Watch out for...
At 40, Sanath Jayasuriya is easily the oldest player in the tournament (Murali, 37, is next) and he's also the only parliamentarian. Twenty20 might be a young man's game but Jayasuriya put his stamp on the World Twenty20 in 2007 and again last year, and only a fool would write off a cameo this time around, especially on the small Caribbean grounds.
Nathan McCullum could be an important player for New Zealand in this competition. No, that's not a misprint. We do mean Nathan, although as the leading all-time run scorer in Twenty20 internationals Brendon is clearly pretty useful as well. But on the slow Guyana pitch, opening the bowling with Nathan's offspin could make or break New Zealand. A couple of clean strikes from Sri Lanka's openers and plan B might be implemented, but a few early wickets and he could help New Zealand progress.
Sri Lanka's line-up is anyone's guess; they haven't played a Twenty20 international since December last year and have had only one practice game in the Caribbean. Mendis, Murali and Lasith Malinga did not take part in the warm-up and the uncapped Dinesh Chandimal was tested. One certainty is that Mahela Jayawardene will open for the first time in a Twenty20 international for his country, after the captain Kumar Sangakkara confirmed the move this week.
Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Mahela Jayawardene, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt, wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Sanath Jayasuriya, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan.
All the New Zealand players were given an opportunity during the two warm-ups but it's hard to see Rob Nicol, Aaron Redmond or Ian Butler finding a place in the starting line-up. The return of Kyle Mills after a long-term injury could spell trouble for Tim Southee, despite Southee's wonderful bowling in the one-over eliminator against Australia when New Zealand last played a Twenty20 international.
New Zealand (possible) 1 Brendon McCullum, 2 Jesse Ryder, 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Scott Styris, 6 Jacob Oram, 7 Gareth Hopkins (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Kyle Mills/Tim Southee, 11 Shane Bond.
Pitch and conditionsSri Lanka's only warm-up was in Barbados, while New Zealand have had two games to get used to the Guyana conditions. The fast bowlers will have to work hard, while batsmen will need to concentrate against slower medium pacers like Scott Styris and the spinners. "The pitches are really difficult to bat on, are very different to back home, and nothing like the other tours I've been on here," Styris said. "It's going to be tough going."
Stats and trivia
- These two teams have met twice in the Caribbean, both times during the 50-over World Cup in 2007, when Sri Lanka won in the Super Eights and again in the semi-final
- Sri Lanka and New Zealand have played each other six times in Twenty20s, for three wins each
- Ajantha Mendis has a phenomenal Twenty20 international record of 25 wickets at 9.76 with an economy rate of 5.30.
Quotes"They've got a good team and everyone talks about the unorthodox nature of some of their bowlers. Fortunately for us we've played them a number of times, and the fact we've played a couple of games here while they haven't, hopefully that's an advantage."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.