Saturday, November 16, 2013
Start time 0945 local (0415 GMT)
In one of his most open public statements since taking over the captaincy in February, Angelo Mathews has admitted to the strategic mistakes that cleared New Zealand's path to an unexpected series lead in Hambantota. Not taking the weather into consideration during the wettest months of the year is a rookie mistake made by a rookie captain, and Sri Lanka will now rethink their plans, and their side ahead of the final match. The forecast for the match in Dambulla does not look pretty, and if any result is reached, it is almost certain to be arrived at via Duckworth-Lewis.
A young New Zealand team will meanwhile be riding high on the thrilling, last-ball win. In a series in which both sides fielded relatively inexperienced men in the batting order, it is the visitors who have shown the stronger signs of regeneration, primarily through Tom Latham's sumptuous 86 from 68 that provided the substance for a successful chase.
One of the key differences between the teams is that younger batsmen like Latham and Colin Munro have the chance to bat higher up the order and build innings in the absence of three New Zealand regulars. Sri Lanka play each of their three seniors in the top four, but even Dimuth Karunaratne, who is batting in his preferred opening position, is yet to make a telling contribution. As part of his post-match break down, Mathews challenged Sri Lanka's youngsters to make good on the promise, and in the third match, no one will feel that pressure more than Karunaratne.
In a strange series, neither team has quite found the wherewithal to exert long periods of pressure with the ball, either. Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan have made two breezy century stands in as many matches, while Sri Lanka spoiled Nuwan Kulasekara's good start against New Zealand in the second ODI with a poor patch in the middle of the innings. How each attack responds to the challenge of bowling with a wet ball - which will likely be the case in Dambulla - may play a defining role in the match.
This is not a series that New Zealand were intent on winning, as evidenced by two high-profile withdrawals, but a 2-0 result may also cultivate considerable confidence ahead of their home summer.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWWLW New Zealand: WLLLL
In the spotlight
For most of the year, the only person who has seemed capable of getting Kumar Sangakkara out, is himself. He produced a career-best ODI score against South Africa in July, and in the previous month, he hit perhaps an even more valuable innings, when he scored 134 not out against England in the Champions Trophy. His 2013 average of 79.46 is by some distance the highest for any batsman who has hit over 300 runs, and remarkably, most of his 1033 runs have come on surfaces that have given bowlers a fair chance. He was last year's leading ODI run-getter as well, albeit in far less emphatic fashion, begging the question, how long can he maintain this dream run?
Luke Ronchi's second stab at international cricket, this time for the country of his birth, had not proved successful until Tuesday night, when he contributed 49 from 26 to the fifth-wicket partnership that set New Zealand on course for victory. Though his glovework never slipped, his batting had been a major liability in England in May and June, where he hit a high-score of 22 in six innings. That performance saw him omitted from the XI, until Brendon McCullum's unavailability put him in the side again. Having moved countries to play international cricket, he will be desperate now, to make this chance count. He has hit a first-class 134 in Dambulla for A team less than two months ago, and if he can produce another good innings at the venue, he may secure a role in New Zealand's upcoming home summer.
Pitch and conditions
The match will be the first international in Dambulla in three years after the venue's dim lights ruled it out for day/night encounters. However, its return to the fold may be spoiled by bad weather, which is forecast to stay for much of the game's scheduled duration. If a match can be played, recent List A results suggest scores in excess of 280 are par at the ground.
Rangana Herath's torrid final over in Hambantota will probably see him left out of the third match, with allrounder Thisara Perera the most likely man to take his place. Perera's return will also add some finishing power to the lower-middle order, which it appeared in desperate need of, in the second ODI.
Neil Broom has now arrived in the country and is available for selection, but it is unlikely he will find a place in a batting order now brimming with confidence. Corey Anderson is being flown home as a precautionary measure after a rib injury saw him miss the second ODI as well, and Andrew Ellis will probably take his place again.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Anton Devcich, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Rob Nicol, 4 Grant Elliott, 5 Colin Munro, 6 Andrew Ellis, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 James Neesham, 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Kyle Mills (capt) 11 Adam Milne
Stats and trivia
After Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan has the highest ODI average this year - 71.15. They have made 899 together in 11 partnerships this year, averaging almost 100 per stand.
Kyle Mills and Anton Devcich have been the most economical bowlers in the series, conceding 4.96 and 4.26 respectively
New Zealand's win at Hambantota featured only three players from their last ODI win in June, which was also against Sri Lanka.
"It will be huge to win this series. It will be nearly as good as this year's series win in South Africa, for a young squad like this to come out and beat the no. 4 ODI team in the world."
Middle order batsman Colin Munro outlines what New Zealand have to gain in Dambulla