When Sri Lanka took on New Zealand in Kandy at the World T20, the two sides produced one of the most relished games in the Super 8s, closely followed by the clash between West Indies and Sri Lanka. There is a difference however. Sri Lanka will be playing without arguably three of their best talents – Lasith Malinga, Mahela Jayawardene and Ajantha Mendis. While Mendis is missing out due a side strain that he sustained during the World T20, Malinga and Jayawardene have been rested for the T20. Matthews will take on his new captaincy role, while Kulasekara will be his deputy in Malinga’s absence.
New Zealand on the other hand will look to kick-start their tour on the right note with a win, when Sri Lanka plays without their two main players. New Zealand will be playing pretty much a similar side to what they did in the World T20. Daniel Vettori will not be a part of the team as he retired earlier from the limited overs formats and only made a comeback for the World T20. Guptill has been rested and is replaced by Tom Latham. Kandy’s cricket ground – the Pallekele – is familiar to them as much as the home team, having played all their Super 8 games there. If weather permits, they might be able to beat the Lankan Lions at home.
Players to look out for:
Southee has been a consistent and reliable bowler for the Kiwis over the last few years who also bowls well at the death. However, the only problem he or the team would face is if he doesn’t get an early breakthrough, which would allow Sri Lanka to capitalize towards the later stage of the innings.
Ross Taylor averaged 49 plus during the World T20 – meaning, he is coming into the tournament with some form backing him. If the spinners are devoid of turn, then we could find balls soaring across the boundary line with much ease and finesse.
He has been one of the better bowlers for Sri Lanka only just behind Malinga. He strikes early, keeps it simple, and goes about doing his job with dedication. Kulasekara’s true character is exposed in times of crisis where he steps up and does that extra bit to get his team out of a mucky situation. Being a handy batsman lower down the order, adds that extra advantage.
Being one of the senior members in the team, much would depend on the start he and Dilshan provide. In the absence of Mahela and the captaincy onus on relatively new-to-the-post Matthews, the batting responsibility should ideally be borne by the other seniors in the team. His role as batsman, wicket-keeper and mentor to Matthews will be vital for the Sri Lankans.
Sri Lanka’s probable XI:
1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Dilshan Munaweera, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Angelo Mathews (capt), 5 Jeevan Mendis, 6 Dinesh Chandimal/ Lahiru Thirimanne, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Shaminda Eranga, 10 Sachithra Senanayake, 11 Akila Dananjaya
New Zealand’s probable XI:
1 Rob Nicol, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 James Franklin, 6 Andrew Ellis, 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Ronnie Hira, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Kyle Mills or Adam Milne.