Black caps prepare for Colombo battle with Lankan tigers, ICC World Cup semi-final
New Zealand are gearing up for their semi-final encounter with the hosts and 1996 World Champions, Sri Lanka at the R.Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
The spectacular stadium, which will be hosting its 101 One Day International match, is only the fourth stadium to host more than 100 ODIs.
New Zealand, under the leadership of Daniel Vettori, will be playing their sixth World Cup semi-final, vying to make it all the way to the final of the mega event for the first time ever.
Meanwhile, it will be Sri Lanka’s fourth World Cup semi-final appearance, having previously achieved the feat in 1996, 2003 and 2007.On paper, Sri Lanka look the stronger of the two sides. Also considering Sri Lanka’s group stage win against New Zealand
in Mumbai, they are the likely favourites to win on their home turf in Colombo.
Meanwhile, Vettori has put forward his reservations for the pitch being used for the semi-final clash: it is the same pitch that was used on Saturday in the quarter-final between Sri Lanka and England. The authorities gave a serious thought about using the
alternative pitch, that was used for the Australia-Pakistan game, but decided against it.
Sri Lanka have been on the top of their game in this tournament, having lost just a solitary game against Pakistan. Sri Lanka have beaten the Kiwis earlier in the group stages of the tournament quite convincingly and therefore hold a psychological edge over
them going into the semi-final.
Sri Lanka is likely to go with the same line-up which crushed England in the quarter-final, with Muttiah Muralitharan’s inclusion subject to fitness.
Muralitharan hurt his knee during the group match against New Zealand on March 18 and strained his quadriceps in the quarter-final two days ago. The Sri Lankan management and fans would be praying for Murali to get fit and feature in the all-important match.
Kumar Sangakarra might again opt to go in with three regular spinner in Muralitharan,Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis, taking into account New Zealand’s susceptibility to spin bowling.
Meanwhile, the Black Caps’ captain,Daniel Vettori is also most likely go in with three genuine spinners including himself, Nathan McCullum and Luke Woodcock as the wicket at Premadasa is quite slow and the bowl tends to take grip as the day progresses and
the pitch gets old.
Tim Southee would lead the bowling attack as he has been doing off late for New Zealand with great success and if Vettori and the think-tank decides not to go with 3 spinners then Daryl Tuffey,who has just been flown over from New Zealand might get a serious
Left arm seamer, Andy McCay is another option but seems unlikely to play as New Zealand would want to keep the combination going in the cruch game.
James Franklin will probably get in a few overs and Jacob Oram, New Zealand highest wicket-taker in World Cups and the man in form, would bowl in the middle overs of the innings.
Mahela Jayawardene has fond memories of the last time these two teams met in a World Cup semi final back in 2007, when he scored a majestic hundred to guide the team to an emphatic win and qualify for the final.
Kumar Sangakarra would be seriously depending heavily on Mahela Jayawardene in the middle of the innings where he has been a real back-bone for Sri Lanka over the years.
Meanwhile, Tillekeratne Dilshan,Upul Tharanga and captain Kumara Sangakarra are amongst the top 5 run-getters of this edition of the World Cup. All eyes would be on them to set a solid platform for the hosts and put them in the driving seat straight away.
Amongst the bowlers, apart from Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga would carry a huge responsibility with the new ball to provide them with some early breakthroughs and then come in for short spells in the later half of the innings.
All in all, it would be a fascinating contest and the toss would play a vital role in deciding the outcome of the match with the R.Premadasa Stadium holding the reputation of favouring the sides batting first.
Whoever wins the toss would probably like to bat first, not just due to the ground’s statistical records but primarily due to the fact that in pressure games like the World Cup semi-final, chasing can get extremely difficult for any team.
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