Both sides dealing with injuries to key players ahead of ODI series, but host has the numbers advantage
Sri Lanka will face New Zealand in the first of a five-match One-Day International series on Saturday(December 26) in Christchurch. Coming on the heels of a 2-0 defeat in the Test series, the Sri Lankans will be keen to turn things around in the 50-over format.
New Zealand, on the other hand, has always been a formidable foe in home conditions, and while the contest promises to be an entertaining one, both sides will also be wary of the injuries to some players over the last few days.
Lasith Malinga, the Sri Lankan pacer, is set to miss the first two matches and may not be available for the entire series. Malinga is still recovering from a knee injury sustained during the West Indies' tour of Sri Lanka in October and November, and Thisara Perera has been called in as cover for the strike bowler already.
"He (Malinga) has not come (to New Zealand) for the ODIs," said Jerry Woutersz, the Sri Lanka team manager. "He's feeling some discomfort in his knee. Whether he will come between the ODIs and T20s -- no-one knows."
Over in the New Zealand camp, Kane Williamson, who was recently crowned the No. 1 Test batsman in the world in the ICC rankings, is also suffering from discomfort in his right knee, and Tom Latham, the Test opener, has been put on standby for the ODI squad.
"We're just working through that knee. It's just a little bit niggly so we want to make sure it's 100 percent," said Craig McMillan, New Zealand's batting coach. "If it's not, Tom is the man we'll bring in as cover."
For New Zealand, Corey Anderson, James Neesham and Grant Elliott were also unavailable for selection because of injuries, while Trent Boult and Tim Southee have been rested for the first half of the series.
Injuries apart, the home side has the numbers advantage over the Sri Lankans. In their last eight encounters, New Zealand has beaten Sri Lanka six times, including in the tournament opener of the ICC World Cup 2015. And with the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Malinga now missing from the ranks, Angelo Mathews's men will have to put their best foot forward if they are to beat New Zealand in its own backyard.
New Zealand last played in an ODI series in August, against South Africa, but Sri Lanka, despite having played more matches than the host in the 50-over format this year, has only won one series - against the West Indies - at home. The visiting side will be keen to end the year on a high, but Brendon McCullum’s men won’t let that happen easily.
The five ODIs will be followed by two Twenty20 Internationals.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (capt.), Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, George Worker, Mitchell Santner, Luke Ronchi (wk), Doug Bracewell, Adam Milne, Ish Sodhi, Mitchell McClenaghan, Matt Henry, Tom Latham.
Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Danushka Gunathilaka , Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Angelo Mathews (capt.), Milinda Siriwardana, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Sachithra Senanayake, Dushmantha Chameera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Chamara Kapugedara, Jeffery Vandersay