New Zealand and Sri Lanka have each won a Test and Twenty20 match and the five-match one-day series beginning on December 28 at Napier will decide who takes the winner's position.
Nathan Astle has been cleared to play the first match after it was confirmed that he had only bruised his hand, and not broken it, during the second Twenty20 match on Boxing Day.
Astle was relieved that the injury, which occurred when Marvan Atapattu tried to run him out, wasn't serious. "It would have been a funny way to break a bone. I didn't know he was going to throw it - I was two metres past the stumps," he told AFP.
Due to a rotational policy to keep the top players fit for the World Cup in March, Stephen Fleming will miss the first two games and Daniel Vettori, who was himself rested for the Twenty20 matches, has been appointed the stand-in captain. Shane Bond will also miss the first two games while Kyle Mills, Scott Styris and Jacob Oram are out of contention due to injuries.
Back-up bowlers Michael Mason and Mark Gillespie are doubtful to play and though Vettori remains hopeful Iain O'Brien, a medium-pace bowler, has been recalled into the squad. "We'll leave it as long as we can," Vettori said adding that the two bowlers, along with James Franklin, had troubled the Sri Lankan batsmen with pace and bounce in the Twenty20 game at Auckland. "It's always been a criticism of subcontinent batsmen when they come to this part of the world - if you get up to them it unsettles them," he said.
New Zealand hosted Sri Lanka for four ODIs last < a href="/link_to_database/ARCHIVE/2005-06/SL_IN_NZ/">December-January and won the series 3-1. Vettori wants to better the result this time round in preparation for the World Cup. "We've talked about the fact that if we want to consider ourselves as one of the favourites for the World Cup, we've got to start winning consistently -- and if we're not winning in our own backyard we can't be put up as favourites." But Vettori has been criticised for picking an inexperienced side that includes Ross Taylor, who has played only two ODIs, and James Marshall, who has played five.
Tom Moody, the Sri Lanka coach, also looked at the five matches as part of Sri Lanka's build-up to the World Cup. "This is part of the process, another hurdle. We want to look at a couple of combinations," he said. Having tied the Test series, the Sri Lankan team will be confident about their chances in the ODIs. Sri Lanka play four ODIs in India in February before heading to West Indies in March.
New Zealand squad: Daniel Vettori (captain), Andre Adams, Nathan Astle, James Franklin, Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, Hamish Marshall, James Marshall, Michael Mason, Brendon McCullum, Iain O'Brien, Jeetan Patel, Ross Taylor.
Sri Lanka squad: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Marvan Atapattu, Malinga Bandara, Tillekaratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Sanath Jayasuriya, Chamara Kapugedera, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ruchira Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Chamara Silva, Upul Tharanga, Chaminda Vaas