Following the heavy drubbing in the 2nd Test against New Zeland, Sri Lanka will now face a Kiwi team which is high in confidence after recording their largest Test win just a few days ago. The two teams will meet on the 3rd of January at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui in the first ODI of the year.
The day/night encounter is scheduled to begin at 1.30 p.m. New Zealand time, which is 6.30 a.m. in Sri Lanka. The match will be of high importance to both teams as they prepare for the ICC World Cup scheduled to happen in June this year.
Looking at the history of the clashes between the two teams, New Zealand have a slight edge over Sri Lanka with 4 wins more than the instances they’ve lost to Sri Lanka. Looking specifically at matches played in New Zealand, the home side has had a clear dominance over the tourists with 25 wins and 12 losses in 40 matches.
The fact that strongly stands in favour of the Blackcaps for this ODI is that, the only match they’ve won out of the 4 ODIs they’ve played in the Bay Oval has come against Sri Lanka in 2016.
Martin Guptill and Matt Henry who scored a century and picked up 5 wickets respectively in that match are likely to feature in New Zealand’s XI tomorrow (3rd January) while Angelo Mathews, who stared for Sri Lanka with 95 runs in their defeat in 2016 has been ruled out due to injury. Dinesh Chandimal is the only player in the current Sri Lankan squad with a half-century at the Bay Oval, which came in the same ODI in 2016.
Taking a closer look at the game at hand, what is certain is that it is going to be dominated by pace. Out of 68 wickets that have fallen at this ground, 51 have been taken by fast bowlers. New Zealand, with the better pace attack, will walk in with that advantage.
Sri Lanka’s pace attack will be led by new captain, the experienced Lasith Malinga. The slinger has been outstanding since he was recalled to the ODI squad last October after being left out for almost a year. Now with him being given the leadership, all eyes will be on his behavior on the field. His plans and strategies in the lead up to the all-important World Cup will be really interesting to see. He also holds the key to whatever success Sri Lanka are planning to gain in the death overs, an aspect in which they have failed over the past couple of years.
New Zealand on the other hand possess a well-equipped pace attack with Tim Southee and Trent Boult in the lead. The duo can be deadly to any batting order in world cricket. So the fragile Sri Lankan top order will face a mighty challenge in seeing off the duo. The only concern with the Kiwi attack is death bowling, which they will try and sort out before the World Cup. So this series, which is against a team that has fired less in the death overs, will be ideal for them to experiment and figure out the correct combination to bowl in the death.
The key batsmen for Sri Lanka will be vice-captain Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis. Both of them are coming to this ODI after successful outings in the last ODI Sri Lanka played, in which they thrashed England at home. Dickwella now being given the responsibility of vice-captain is expected to bat with more responsibility. He even showed a glimpse of the player to whom he can transform when he is put under pressure and demanded to take a responsibility in the 1st innings of the 1st Test with an unbeaten 80. Kusal Mendis on the other hand is expected to continue the form he re-gained during Sri Lanka’s last ODI following the good form he displayed during the Test series.
Apart from Dickwella and Mendis, returning players Kusal Janith and Asela Gunaratne will be players to watch out for Sri Lanka in their lead-up to the World Cup, particularly with Angelo Mathews being hampered by injury.
Martin Guptill will return to boost New Zealand’s top-order after an injury lay-off. Guptill along with Colin Munro at the top will look to give New Zealand a quick start while the likes of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor will be expected to keep the innings together and carry the team towards a good finish. The returning all-rounder James Neesham will be the player to watch out for as his inclusion comes with the management resting all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme. Wicket keeper Tim Seifter, who is to debut tomorrow will also have to do well as he’s in for regular wicket keeper Tom Latham, who is also in tremendous form.
The probable team for Sri Lanka was very hard to pick with a brand new combination being named in the 17-man squad. Seekkuge Prasanna is expected to be picked ahead of Lakshan Sandakan as the lone spinner while Sri Lanka will have to take a crucial call whether to play all-rounder Dasun Shanaka or to play a pure fast bowler. Dinesh Chandimal’s place in the final XI seems to be doubtful as he’ll be fighting for a place with Dhananjaya de Silva.
Sri Lanka – Probable XI
Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Janith Perera, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal/Dhananjaya De Silva, Asela Gunaratne, Dasun Shanaka/Lahiru Kumara, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lasith Malinga (C), Nuwan Pradeep
The New Zealanders with a 13-man squad have played more or less with set combination over the recent past. So either James Neesham or Doug Bracewell is expected to replace Colin de Grandhomme.
New Zealand – Probable XI
Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (C), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tim Seifert (WK), Jimmy Neesham/Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Lockie Ferguson/Matt Henry, Trent Boult
Luckily for this ODI no rain is predicted, so a full match on a sunny afternoon is expected. If Sri Lanka are to start the year well, they’ll have to start well with both bat and ball.