New Zealand are the David Ferrer of cricket. They are the good, friendly triers. They try to make up for lesser talent compared to the big boys with honest effort. Of course, plain honest effort does not get you the big titles. But more often than not, it gets you towards the closing stages of the big tournaments: the quarter-finals, the semi-finals, the extremely occasional final. Once there, they are widely expected to make way for the Nadals or the Australias. Both have no qualms about that; they know reaching where they do using what they posses, in relation to what the big boys have, is no mean achievement.
On Sunday, Ferrer, at age 31, will play his maiden Grand Slam final in Paris in a career that has seen about ten Slam campaigns fail at the quarter-final and semi-final hurdles. Across the Channel, New Zealand - admittedly with slightly more experience of making big-tournament finals, courtesy the Champions Trophy - will begin their campaign in the tournament that has given them their lone ICC trophy till date.
Very rarely do you not count a New Zealand side as one of the underdogs, but a team that has beaten South Africa and England on their home soils in one-day series recently has to be treated with some respect. The Champions Trophy might just be to New Zealand's liking. The crunched format means they don't have to sustain their run of form for too long.
And unlike in Ferrer's case, their opponent on Sunday will not be that impenetrable returning wall that goes by the name of Rafael Nadal. It is a side whose lot might be compared with that of Andy Murray before he finally, to Britain's relief, won a Grand Slam.
All the quality of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lasith Malinga has not been able to deliver a world title for Sri Lanka in over a decade. More than being told by the outside world that they have it in them, they know they are too good a side to have finished on the wrong end of four successive final appearances in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012. In the last one, at the World Twenty20 final at home, they had West Indies 32 for 2 after ten overs and still blew it. Age was on Murray's side; it is not on the side of these four Sri Lankan greats. On Sunday, they will begin one of their last attempts to not go down in history as one of the best collections of men to not have won a world title.
New Zealand: LWWLL (completed games, most recent first) Sri Lanka: LWWLL
Watch out for...
Two new balls? Helpful conditions for the fast bowlers? MS Dhoni defeated South Africa primarily through the stranglehold of his spinners in the opening match of the tournament in Cardiff. New Zealand could possibly face the combination of Sachithra Senanayake, Jeevan Mendis and Dilshan at the same ground. Tackling the lone English spinner in the one-dayers was one thing; even Suresh Raina bowled as many as six overs in Cardiff a couple of days ago. How the New Zealand batsmen go against the Sri Lanka spinners will be crucial to the outcome.
There may not have been too much swing in Cardiff when India played South Africa, but there was lots of bounce, and a couple of India batsmen copped blows to their helmets. While New Zealand may not have someone with extreme pace, they would have had a look at how South Africa overdid the short ball against India, and will come with a better strategy against another side from the subcontinent. How well will the Sri Lanka batsmen deal with the bounce?
New Zealand are still sweating on the fitness of Daniel Vettori and to add to that, Grant Elliott has a calf injury. Brendon McCullum said he was waiting on both before finalising the team on the morning of the game.
New Zealand (possible) 1 Luke Ronchi (wk), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Grant Eliott/Colin Munro, 6 Brendon McCullum (capt), 7 James Franklin, 8 Daniel Vettori/Nathan McCullum, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan
Sri Lanka have not spent much time together as a squad after the IPL, compared to New Zealand who have been in England for over a month. But they do not seem to have as many injury worries, last-minute flare-ups notwithstanding.
When AB de Villiers won the toss against India, the skies were heavy enough to make it a straightforward decision to bowl on a cold morning. Soon after India started their innings, the sun came out and Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma prospered. There was little swing, some seam, and bounce was the only testing thing to handle for the batsmen.
Cardiff had terrific, clear weather on the eve of the match, and more of it is expected on Sunday, with a high of 21 degrees.
The last ODI Daniel Vettori played was the 2011 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka in Colombo. The last international match he played, in September 2012, was also in Sri Lanka, during the World Twenty20
Sri Lanka and New Zealand have met three times in the Champions Trophy. Sri Lanka won in 1998 and 2006, New Zealand in 2009
Seven of the eight completed ODIs at Cardiff have been won by the chasing side. Only India have won batting first
"I don't know what it is that makes us do well in big tournaments. We give ourselves every chance and we seem to be thereabouts semi-final or finals stage. Whether it's the nature of being able to bounce between different opposition and making sure that we're well prepared, I'm not sure." Brendon McCullum reflects on New Zealand's record in ICC tournaments
"To me Lasith hasn't put on that much weight. He's very professional the way he goes about things and he knows exactly what to do and how to do it. He's our premier bowler and he tries to give the maximum each time he walks into the middle." Angelo Mathews feels a heavier-looking Lasith Malinga is still at his best