Tuesday 24 April 2007 

All-Round Kiwis Face Unorthodox Sri Lanka In Jamaica

New Zealand battle Sri Lanka for a place in the World Cup final on Tuesday in a contest of contrasting styles.

The Kiwis have great depth in batting and bowling while 1996 champions Sri Lanka are more conventional but boast fast bowler Lasith Malinga and off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, two of the most unusual bowlers to ever play the game.

Malinga is fit to take his place in the Sabina Park clash after missing the last three Super Eight matches with an ankle injury.

New Zealand will welcome back main strike bowler Shane Bond, who missed Friday's 215-run defeat by Australia with a stomach upset, and all-rounder Jacob Oram, who was rested because of a bruised heel.

The wicket in Kingston is expected to offer bounce, meaning Malinga with his slingy action and express paceman Bond could be the crucial players.

"Bounce might be a key factor. It may give us an advantage in terms of what we can extract with our taller bowlers," New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming told reporters.

However, Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene thought his side could have the edge because New Zealand have never reached a World Cup final.

"In terms of experience I think our guys have played in more big and tough matches," he said.

When the sides met in the Super Eights in Grenada on April 12, Sri Lanka won by six wickets.

Jayawardene's team were then criticised for resting Muralitharan and key fast bowler Chaminda Vaas against favourites Australia in a meaningless second round match but the captain felt that decision had borne fruit.

"The aim was to keep those guys fresh and they look fresh," Jayawardene added.

New Zealand's main selection dilemma is whether to continue with two spinners or drop Jeetan Patel and bring in an extra paceman.

Sri Lanka will choose between seam bowlers Farveez Maharoof and Dilhara Fernando with the latter set to get the nod.

The winner will face either defending champions Australia or South Africa in the final in Barbados on Saturday. Their semi-final takes place in St Lucia on Wednesday.

© Reuters 2007