Poor fielding hurting Sri Lanka

Afghanistan have spoken of their intent to upset an established cricket side, and with Sri Lanka having lost both warm-ups and the tournament opener, they would appear to be ripe for the plucking. Only, few teams have been better at putting away Associate nations than Sri Lanka, particularly at major tournaments. Netherlands were the most recent victims, in last year's World T20, but Canada and Kenya have also been dealt with severely in past World Cups.

For Sri Lanka, this match is not just a banana peel to avoid, it is a chance to climb into gear. They had arrived in New Zealand with high hopes for the long away season, but instead, injury has sapped key players of form, and a familiar flimsiness in the middle order has returned. Their greatest shortcoming, however, has been in the field, where they have shelled important catches and bled runs.

"We've done a lot of hard work with our fielding," captain Angelo Mathews said, "but it's just that the consistency level is not there. One game we are extremely good, the next game we drop our standards a little bit. I don't think we are a bad fielding unit."

Sri Lanka dropped catches off both Kane Williamson and Corey Anderson in the tournament opener, before both batsmen went on to hit half-centuries. Reprieved batsmen have made a habit of making Sri Lanka pay for their errors in the past few months. Rohit Sharma was dropped in a Kolkata ODI for four before he went on to hit a record 264, while Willamson was also given several chances during the double-ton that transformed the second Test in Wellington.

"When you make mistakes you lose your concentration and that split second can turn the game around," Mathews said. "So you've got to have your focus right throughout the game and not let those chances slip away.

"When you look at all the games that have been played in the World Cup, the better fielding sides always stop about 15-20 runs and they take those crucial game. They don't give the good batsmen a chance. We certainly can do that, it's just that our concentration has slipped away. Hopefully we can ‑‑ we expect a clinical performance tomorrow."

The World Cup has so far seen violent hitting in the death overs - a trend which has yet to catch up with Sri Lanka during their time in New Zealand. With Lahiru Thirimanne having been moved to the opening position, Test-match opener Dimuth Karunaratne has been tasked with filling the gap in the middle order. With Thisara Perera also out of form, Sri Lanka have not had the batting power other teams have displayed in the last 15 overs.

"We've talked about our lower middle order so much in the past few days," Mathews said. "On so many occasions we have batting meetings. One thing that we want to make sure, is that we bat through the 40 overs and try and not lose too many wickets, then launch at the end. Hopefully we all seven batters will perform tomorrow."

The abject start to 2015 has been a return to earth for Sri Lanka, who won 12 of the 16 trophies they played for in 2014, and drew for one more. They have now lost 12 of their last 19 completed ODIs, but Mathews said his team was still capable of the quality of performance that saw them become such a force last year.

"We've had a really good time in the past 12 or 14 months. We've beaten England and created history there. So we can do it. We know that we can do it. It's just that we need to believe in ourselves, and not give up until the last moment. Even in the 2013 Champions Trophy, we lost the first game to New Zealand and came back really hard in English conditions to beat England and Australia. We've got the skill to do it."