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New Zealand eyes winning finish to brilliant year

McCullum doubtful but host will welcome back Williamson; embattled Sri Lanka looks to Dilshan, Mathews to turn things around

New Zealand eyes winning finish to brilliant year - Cricket News
Brendon McCullum is likely to sit out of the ODI due to a sore back.
New Zealand has had a remarkable year -- reaching the ICC World Cup final for the first time ever, drawing a Test series in England, equalling its record of 13 undefeated Tests at home -- and if it can seal the One-Day International series against Sri Lanka in the third game in Nelson on Thursday (December 31), it would be the cherry on top.
 
After the previous mauling, where Martin Guptill's unbeaten 93 off 30 balls helped the side polish off a modest 118-run target in 8.2 overs, Sri Lanka will be hard pressed to stop the New Zealand juggernaut.
 
Not even the news that Brendon McCullum is likely to sit out of the next game due to a sore back will come as relief to the beleaguered Sri Lanka side with Kane Williamson, who missed the first two ODIs because of a sore knee, expected to return and take over the reins. If anything, that should be even more worrying as Williamson is second on the list of most runs scored in ODIs this year, just behind Guptill.
 
But more than the batting riches, New Zealand owes its success to the disciplined bowling attack. Tim Southee and Trent Boult were rested for the first two and three games respectively, but Matt Henry and Mitchell McClenaghan have stepped up, knocking over Sri Lanka for totals of 188 and 117 respectively.


  
With Southee due to return for the next game, Henry will be rested but the management has said he is available for the final two games. Also expected to come back into the playing XI is Adam Milne, who missed the second game with a troublesome heel. 
 
New Zealand is also considering playing Henry Nicholls, the 24-year-old uncapped batsman who impressed in outings for New Zealand A against Sri Lanka A, but going by how the host has dominated proceedings, he may not get a chance to bat. 
 
While Lasith Malinga's absence has undoubtedly hurt Sri Lanka's cause, Jerome Jayaratne, the team’s interim coach, termed the two defeats "humiliating" and laid the blame squarely at the batsmen, especially for not making the most of a batting surface in Christchurch. "We batted first and didn't give the bowlers a fair total to bowl at," he said. "We know that New Zealand are a very good batting team, but you can't measure the bowlers with the scores we gave them to bowl at."


 
It's not easy to replace the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, but the men groomed to fill their shoes, Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal, have looked out of sorts. Sri Lanka desperately needs Tillakaratne Dilshan to fire at the top, while Angelo Mathews must work out a way to counter New Zealand's tactics of having him repeatedly caught down the legside. 
 
Although the Saxton Oval pitch in Nelson is expected to be a slower surface than the one at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch, Sri Lanka will need more than a shift in venue to bring a change in fortunes. New Zealand has promised to keep its foot firmly on the pedal, and looks on course to end the year with a bang. 
 
Teams (from):
 
New Zealand:
Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson (capt), 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.
 

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