Sri Lankans have the edge over Black Caps

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THE REAKITY CHECK – The Broader Perspective In a rematch of the 2007 World Cup semi-final, Sri Lanka take on the surprise package New Zealand in the first semi-final of the 2011 World Cup in Colombo today. While Sri Lanka have been more consistent with their performances in the tournament, New Zealand have been scrappy. However, they managed to pick themselves up just when it mattered and disposed of one of the favourites, South Africa, in the quarter-finals. The all-round depth of the Kiwis makes them a tough side to beat, with the presence of all-rounders like Daniel Vettori, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris and Nathan McCullum – the Kiwis are well served in this regard.
The skipper will also lead an attack full of slow bowling options and apart from the spinning options of Vettori and Nathan McCullum, New Zealand’s dibbly dobblers like Oram and Styris can play a crucial role on a slow Premadasa pitch. However, it will be the New Zealand top order which will have to click against a dapper Sri Lankan bowling attack, packed with quality spinners, if they are to do well. Brendon McCullum will have to fire while the likes of Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor will also have to contribute well.
Sri Lanka on the other end have a strong top four in batting, but questions remain over the ability of their middle and lower order, should the Kiwis break through the Sangakkara-Jayawardene barrier. Tillekaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga did a fantastic job for the Sri Lankans on Saturday and will be expected to carry on laying the platform from the top.
Sri Lanka probably have the second best bowling attack, after Pakistan, in the tournament. With Muttiah Muralitharan passed fit, Sri Lanka will get a big boost. Sri Lankans will be once again tempted to test Black Caps with the three spin option of Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath. But if they don’t go for three spinners, they have an able seamer in Nuwan Kulasekara who can always come in. Sri Lanka also beat New Zealand by 112 runs in the pool game and definitely have more resources and pedigree for today’s semi-final. Sri Lanka were the champions in 1996 and they also lost the last edition’s final to Australia.
New Zealand have made it to the semi-finals four times but have never moved ahead. Sri Lanka are the overwhelming favourites for today’s semi-final against New Zealand. However, the Black Caps’ all-round depth and the confidence they would have gained by defeating Proteas in the quarters means that they cannot be written off in Tuesday’s clash. Form Guide & Conditions Sri Lanka have won 33 of the 73 ODIs against New Zealand, with the latter winning 35. But in Sri Lanka, the Black Caps have only won five of the 19 games played, with the hosts winning 12. The pitch is expected to be slow and low once again, with batting a touch difficult and grafting the innings will be the way forward rather than crash, bang, wallop. Any side winning the toss will look to bat first and put a decent total on the board in a crunch game.
Watch Out For
Kumar Sangakkara has the ability to fulfil a number of roles for the Sri Lankans, whether it be building an innings in the middle overs, keeping wickets or marshalling the troops. Sangakkara has the ability to do the business, and he is always an influential figure in the field which makes him the one to look out for. Brendon McCullum holds the key for Black Caps at the top of the order. With Kiwis likely to face a lot of spin on a helpful wicket, they’ll need McCullum’s dancing feet to be at their flashing best. Although he has contributed some runs at the World Cup, he’s yet to play the sort of match-winning knock to which we are accustomed.
Who Wins
New Zealand have beaten some good sides in the tournament, but Sri Lanka’s overall skill set with both the bat and the ball should be too much for them in front of a enthusiastic crowd and the typical Colombo humidity. Likely Playing Elevens
Sri Lanka: Tharanga, Dilshan, Sangakkara (wk), Jayawardene, Samaraweera, Silva, Mathews, Malinga, Herath/Kulasekara, Mendis, Muralitharan
New Zealand: Guptill, B McCullum (wk), Ryder, Taylor, Styris, Williamson/ Franklin, Oram, Vettori, N McCullum, Woodcock/Tuffey, Southee, Umpires: Aleem Dar and SJ Davis, TV umpire M Erasmus