ICC Live

In focus

Buy Tickets for 2017 - 300x250

Cardiff hosts the overachievers

New Zealand is the team in form but Sri Lanka will be quietly confident and will back its tried-and-tested methods to put up a strong show

Cardiff hosts the overachievers - Cricket News
Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews will lead his team in the Champions Trophy.
They may not get the media attention that some other sides do, but both Sri Lanka and New Zealand have considerable pedigree when it comes to ICC tournaments. Sri Lanka was the losing finalist at the World Cup in both 2007 and 2011. On both occasions, it beat New Zealand in the semifinal. As for New Zealand, winner of the ICC KnockOut – the precursor to the Champions Trophy – in 2000, it can also point to the last final of this competition, where it finished second best to Australia.  

It was once easy to dismiss Sri Lanka as a side that thrived only in subcontinent-like conditions. But this decade, it has won more than it has lost in Australia (9-8) and the bowling strategy is no longer based on the wonder spin of Muttiah Muralitharan.  

The United Kingdom, though, hasn’t seen Sri Lanka’s best cricket. In the 38 matches it has played here, only 15 have been won. New Zealand, by contrast, has a winning record, and has compiled impressive 10-3 stats since the turn of the millennium. It also leads Sri Lanka 13-12 in matches played on neutral soil, and comes into this game on the back of a series win against England.   

On a Cardiff Wales Stadium pitch where spinners had a big say when India played South Africa, Sri Lanka may go back to tried-and-tested methods on Sunday (June 9). Both Rangana Herath and Sachithra Senanayake will likely play, with Angelo Mathews, the captain, and Thisara Perera providing pace back-up for Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara.  

Kusal Perera offers a stroke-filled, albeit inexperienced, option at the top of the order, but it will be the experienced trio of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara that are central to Sri Lankan hopes of success. If they can get the team through the tricky phase against the two new balls, Mathews, Perera and Dinesh Chandimal are more than capable of signing off in emphatic style.  

Ranged against them is a New Zealand side that bowled beautifully against England, both home and away. Trent Boult, the most impressive of a young pack of pace bowlers, has gone home, but Mitchell McClenaghan, who replaced him, is even quicker. If Daniel Vettori recovers from an Achilles problem – and Brendon McCullum seemed confident that he would – he and Nathan McCullum will offer the spin complement for the pace strengths.  

Grant Elliott is unlikely to be fit on time – he has a tight calf – and that could mean an opportunity for Colin Munro. New Zealand certainly hasn’t been short of runs, with Martin Guptill in resplendent form and Ross Taylor rediscovering his. There are question marks over Luke Ronchi at the top of the order, after 24 runs in three matches against England, and Malinga will no doubt target him early on.  

This is Sri Lanka’s only day match of the group stage – it hasn’t won under lights in four previous attempts in England – and in conditions that are far more likely to suit its brand of cricket. With two explosive openers in the ranks, Mathews suggested that there would be no holding back, but it’s with the ball that Sri Lanka will need to find inspiration.  

Mathews was not amused by suggestions that Malinga was carrying too much weight, but with several key players sitting on the sidelines for their IPL franchises, the build-up to this tournament has been far from ideal. New Zealand is the team in form, but with enough old hands in their ranks, Sri Lanka will be quietly confident of extending its dominance at this level.    

Sri Lanka (likely XI): Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews (capt), Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Rangana Herath, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga.
New Zealand (likely XI): Martin Guptill, Luke Ronchi (wk), Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Colin Munro, Brendon McCullum (capt), James Franklin, Nathan McCullum, Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan.

Similar Articles