World’s top-ranked T20 side braces for New Zealand challenge as host welcomes back Anderson, Elliott
With the ICC World Twenty20 2016 two months away, teams are working out their best combinations in the lead-up to the event. Sri Lanka and New Zealand will begin the process on Thursday (January 7) when they meet in the first of two Twenty20 Internationals at Mount Maunganui.
Sri Lanka will need to win, or at least draw, the series to remain on top of the ICC Twenty20 Rankings, and Dinesh Chandimal's men will be aware of the weight of expectations on their shoulders. After all, Sri Lanka is the defending World T20 champion.
New Zealand, currently ranked eighth, is a much feared side when comes to the shorter formats but its inability to seal matches has been a cause for concern. With Brendon McCullum overlooked following his decision to retire from all international cricket next month, its batting does wear a slightly less formidable look.
New Zealand is likely to include Corey Anderson to beef up the batting. The other good news for New Zealand is the return of Grant Elliott, who was out of action for the past couple of months with a wrist injury.
In McCullum's absence, Kane Williamson will lead the side and it will be interesting to see how one of the most prolific batsmen in cricket at the moment handles the leadership role, which he has donned in the past.
With McCullum due to retire after the second Test against Australia in February, which means he won’t spearhead New Zealand’s challenge in the ICC World T20 2016, Williamson gets an excellent opportunity to get the flock together.
Sri Lanka too has a new T20 captain, but Chandimal has been entrusted with the responsibility once because Lasith Malinga, the regular skipper, is absent because of a recurring knee injury. Chandimal, who stepped down from T20 captaincy during the ICC World T20 2014, has been a picture of consistency with the bat over the last few months.
Chandimal has a stiff task on hand not only because these Sri Lanka has had a difficult tour since arriving in New Zealand in December last year. Sri Lanka lost the Test series 0-2 and the five-match One-Day International series 1-3, both under Angelo Mathews.
A turnaround, however, isn't beyond Sri Lanka, which has a host of youngsters to pick from to complement the experienced core group. New Zealand, by contrast, looks like it has most pieces in place.
The one piece that won't feature in both matches is Tim Southee. The experienced paceman has been ruled out due to a toe injury suffered during the third ODI. Matt Henry, who has 13 wickets from his last three ODIs, has been named as replacement.
New Zealand won the final match of the ODI series by 36 runs at the same venue with Henry leading its bowling charge. The surface, however, did assist the spinners and the visitor will be hoping Jeffrey Vandersay, the young leggie, can make an impact with the ball. Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chandimal and Mathews must lead the way with the bat as Sri Lanka tries to round off a disappointing tour on a high.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Luke Ronchi (wk), Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Ish Sodhi, Ross Taylor.
Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dinesh Chandimal (capt, wk), Angelo Mathews, Milinda Siriwardene, Chamara Kapugedera, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Sachithra Senanayake, Dushmantha Chameera, Jeffrey Vandersay, Isuru Udana. Kithruwan Vithanage, Shehan Jayasuriya,