Against IPL-weakened New Zealand, Sri Lanka’s World Cup dreams are on the line
It’s safe to say that Sri Lanka may have amazed a good number of viewers of the Tests in Christchurch and Wellington despite the eventual 2-0 score in the hosts’ favour. Okay, maybe not so much the later, but undoubtedly during the course of that dramatic first Test.
The visitors ran the defending WTC champions as closely as anyone could have expected in that match in an attempt to secure an unlikely World Test Championship berth. In the process, they won some much-deserved recognition from the larger cricketing community.
Yet there was the Sri Lankan red-ball team, which was motivated more by a sense of collectivism similar to that of New Zealand than by the idea of personal excellence.
Yet, despite recent improvements in their white-ball performances, which resulted in a spectacular Asia Cup T20 victory last year, their ODI team has mainly disappointed.
Since the ODI World Cup Super League began, Sri Lanka has suffered defeats at the hands of the West Indies, Bangladesh, and England, while their home record has been only slightly better, with defeats at the hands of India, South Africa, and most recently Afghanistan.
The ODI team’s low point was perhaps reached earlier this year during a 3-0 thrashing in India. This was especially difficult to take in since the World Cup was being held there at the same time, and the T20I series before that had seen them push the hosts to the series finale.
While Sri Lanka’s recent one-day history may make any bright spots seem like wizard-level straw-clutching, the record will still show a 3-2 series win against Australia at home last year, so, sure, there is that.
This brings us to the present, where Sri Lanka must complete a whitewash of New Zealand in the coming week or so if they are to have any chance of qualifying automatically for the World Cup later this year. Even then, they are heavily dependent on South Africa messing up in a series against the Netherlands.
They may benefit from the fact that the hosts won’t be at full strength. Because they have already qualified for the World Cup and know that the conditions in India won’t be anything like those in places like Auckland, Christchurch, and Hamilton, New Zealand has given permission for no less than nine ODI regulars to participate in the IPL.
With the exception of Dushmantha Chameera’s absence, Sri Lanka has a generally stable squad and should be able to field their strongest starting lineup. They appear to be the stronger side, at least on paper.
New Zealand (probable) XI: 1 Finn Allen, 2 Chad Bowes, 3 Will Young, 4 Daryl Mitchell, 5 Tom Latham (wk), 6 Glenn Phillips, 7 Rachin Ravindra, 8 Blair Tickner/Ben Lister, 9 Henry Shipley/Lockie Ferguson, 10 Matt Henry, 11 Ish Sodhi
Sri Lanka (probable) XI: 1 Pathum Nissanka, 2 Nuwanidu Fernando, 3 Kusal Mendis (wk), 4 Charith Asalanka, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Dhananjaya De Silva, 7 Dasun Shanaka (capt.), 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Lahiru Kumara, 10 Kasun Rajitha, 11 Maheesh Theekshana/Matheesha Pathirana