The first of five One Day Internationals between Sri Lanka and New Zealand takes place in Pallekele on Thursday (8.30am GMT).
Sri Lanka look to hold a huge advantage in the longer version of the Limited Overs Game. The travelling Kiwis may be an underrated force in T20 but Ross Taylor’s side are struggling in other formats and are the rank outsiders ahead of this match.
After resting skipper Mahela Jayawardene and key fast bowler Lasith Malinga for the one off T20 international on Tuesday, the hosts will almost be back to full strength for this first ODI. The exception is mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis who is still struggling with a long term side strain and is likely to miss the whole of the One Day series.
This could be an area for New Zealand’s batsmen to exploit because Mendis was just returning to his best form during the recent World T20. Batters were finding him impossible to read and his figures were vital in some close contests during that tournament.
Batting is New Zealand’s strongest suit by some distance and if only they could find a comparably strong bowling attack, Taylor’s men would be a far greater force in world cricket than they currently are. As it is, they are relying on two world class batsmen to mount or chase a big total.
Brendon McCullum is one of the most destructive hitters in limited overs cricket while Ross Taylor has started to rediscover his best form after struggling at times with the extra burden of captaincy. With Martin Guptill out of the one day matches, McCullum and Taylor are simply vital to New Zealand’s chances of winning this game.
As for Sri Lanka, Jayawardene’s return re-unites the country’s top three batters along with Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara. All three players are heading towards the veteran status but the key to their success lies in their consistency.
Supporters can generally expect at least one of these players to find form in any match while they rarely fail. Unlike others, who score big runs 50% of the time, you can always expect a sound contribution from these three and this game is unlikely to be any different.
Malinga aside, this is going to be a weakened bowling line up for the Sri Lankans but it’s important that sides don’t underestimate their capabilities. Players such as Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekara may not be world class but they are useful performers who could slot into most sides around the world.
Certainly, New Zealand’s bowling attack doesn’t compare and once again there are young faces in a Kiwi squad. With Dan Vettori absent with injury, the tourists will struggle to keep Sri Lanka’s power hitters in check.
The result will be decided between two strong batting line ups and two weaker bowling attacks. Overall, the hosts have marginally better quality in all departments and this should be comfortable for Jayawardene and his men.
- This Preview’s Betting Tips Advice: Sri Lanka to win at 4/9 with SkyBet.