Saturday, 26 September 2009

Last chance saloon for New Zealand


Match factsSunday, September 27, 2009Start time 9.30 am (730 GMT)
With one loss and two games to go, New Zealand have no uncertainty left - they just must win © AFP
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Series/Tournaments: ICC Champions Trophy
Teams: New Zealand Sri Lanka
Outplayed in their first match, New Zealand have a mountain to climb to stay alive in the tournament. Their competitors in Group B - England, Sri Lanka and South Africa - have two points each while New Zealand are yet to get on board. Sri Lanka, who already have one win, against South Africa, but lost to England, can't breathe too easy even if they win. In that sense, the manner in which results have unfolded has meant that this tournament has virtual quarterfinals, even if the organisers did not design it thus.
Sri Lanka will be confident of achieving a win after the way they beat New Zealand at home recently. The loss to England was disappointing for the way their top order collapsed, but Kumar Sangakkara took positives from the way a couple batsmen played and Ajantha Mendis bowled on an unresponsive track for spin.
New Zealand are in a trickier position than Sri Lanka: lose and they're out. One of their serious problems has been that their batsmen have failed to adapt to different conditions. Daniel Vettori admitted after the game that it wasn't easy to come out of six weeks in Sri Lanka and prepare for seam-friendly tracks in South Africa. Barring Ross Taylor, none of the other batsmen have come up with anything sizeable. The Johannesburg pitch on view so far has been made for the grafters, not the banner-grabbing heroes. Quality players do adapt to different conditions, changing their game, making subtle adjustments, cutting out certain shots. The time has come for New Zealand's struggling but talented line-up to do just that.
"That's the most difficult thing," said Vettori. "If you talk about it [the batting] for long enough, it can induce fear. The key words we have been trying to emphasise is to play with no fear. There will be no excuses. We will have to play well to beat them."
If New Zealand win, then Group B turns into a cracker. Given their recent form they don't stand much of a chance but, as this tournament has shown, it's the underdog that starts games as favourites. Just ask England.
Form guide(last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand - LLLWL
Sri Lanka - LWWWL
Team newsTo play two spinners would be a bit of a gamble, and the alternative approach would be to play the extra fast bowler. The big debate is whether Sri Lanka should drop Muttiah Muralitharan for Thilan Thushara. Murali went for 60 against England, and his form hasn't been too promising lately. Mendis didn't get a wicket last game but his three against South Africa should work for him, as well as New Zealand's inexperience playing him.
Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt/wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Thilina Kandamby, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Thilan Thushara/Muttiah Muralitharan, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis.
Vettori's got a bit of a job on his hands - getting the right combination on the park. There's the pitch to consider and Johannesburg's strips have played for the quicks. There's the dew factor to consider too. New Zealand didn't play a second spinner against South Africa and may not here either. James Franklin has replaced Jacob Oram in the squad and presents a good case for selection given his county form for Gloucestershire. He would replace Gareth Hopkins.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Jesse Ryder, 2 Brendon McCullum (wk), 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Grant Elliott, 6 Neil Broom, 7 James Franklin, 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Daryl Tuffey, 11 Shane Bond.
Watch out for...James Franklin hasn't played an ODI since the 2007 World Cup but now finds himself primed for a return. Franklin was called up as a replacement for the injured Oram while playing for Gloucestershire against Kent in Bristol. His form has been promising: in seven Friends Provident Trophy matches this season, Franklin has taken 11 wickets at 21.90 and scored 224 runs at a strike-rate of 82.05. New Zealand could do with his batting and left-arm medium pace.
One of the bright spots for Sri Lanka has been the form of Thilina Kandamby, who has done well in ODIs this year after being recalled after a four-year gap. He has propped up their fragile middle order, and his substantial efforts have all been fluent and cool innings. Equally skilled at rescuing and biffing the ball, Kandamby is the new-age Arjuna Rangatunga.
Stats and trivia
New Zealand have played Sri Lanka twice in the Champions Trophy, in the inaugural edition in 1998 and then in 2006. Sri Lanka won both matches while chasing.
Vettori is New Zealand's most experienced player in Champions Trophy matches. In 11 games he has taken ten wickets at 36.60 and scored 195 runs at 39.00.

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