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June 15, 2009
It's quite simple - the winner goes into the semi-finals and the loser heads home. A second-round exit would be slightly unfair on the undefeated Sri Lanka, but they can avoid the trapdoor with another committed performance when they face New Zealand, who have a much healthier net run-rate despite a win and a loss in the Super Eights.
Sri Lanka's first-up success against Australia was followed by wins over West Indies, Pakistan and Ireland, showing their all-round capabilities in a range of situations. Their closest call came against Ireland on Sunday, when Mahela Jayawardene's 78 dragged them to 144 and their bowlers held on for a nine-run triumph. It still didn't guarantee them a spot in the final four.
While Kumar Sangakkara's men are blot free in England, New Zealand were bewildered after being dismissed for 99 by Pakistan, chiefly because of the head-scratching reverse-swing provided by Umar Gul. Lasith Malinga can manage similar shape at times, but Daniel Vettori's line-up will have the most concern over Sri Lanka's spinners. If they conquer the slow men, a place in the semis should be theirs.
Form guide (last five matches, most recent first)
New Zealand LWLWW
Sri Lanka WWWWL
Watch out for
Tillakaratne Dilshan sits second on the competition's run list with 173 in four games, having achieved the tally averaging almost a run and a half per ball. His starts have given Sri Lanka essential surges and are one of the major reasons behind their unbeaten run.
It's been a low-key tournament so far for Jacob Oram and now is the time for New Zealand's most versatile player to stand up to his full height. In four matches he has 52 runs in the middle order - a blast of 15 from seven balls was the most powerful - and no wickets. His team needs him to fire at the next opportunity.
Two of New Zealand's most important players, Daniel Vettori and Ross Taylor, are carrying injuries that could derail the campaign. Vettori has played through the pain of a shoulder problem recently while Taylor is carrying a hamstring complaint and has missed the past two games. Brendon McCullum is the latest to join the injured list, but is most likely to be available for the crunch tie.
New Zealand: (possible) 1 Brendon McCullum, 2 Aaron Redmond, 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Scott Styris, 6 Jacob Oram, 7 Peter McGlashan (wk), 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Daniel Vettori (capt), 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Ian Butler.
The way things are going for Sri Lanka, they have no reason to change anything. Expect the same side that beat Ireland unless there are any slips at training.
Sri Lanka: (possible) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Sanath Jayasuriya, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt, wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Jehan Mubarak, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Muttiah Muralitharan, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis.
Stats and trivia
"Twenty20 is fast becoming a bowlers' game rather than a batsmen's game. Bowlers have an opportunity to take wickets with almost every ball they bowl and I think the most successful bowlers in England in the Twenty20 format have been the spinners."
Kumar Sangakkara believes the slow bowlers hold the key for success
"As a New Zealand team we've got a history of having good sides but never really earning the respect of other nations because we're always so inconsistent. The guys think we have a side good enough to win the tournament."
Brendon Diamanti manages to stay optimistic ahead of the must-win game
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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