New Zealand v Sri Lanka, 1230 GMT, Trent Bridge, ICC World Twenty20
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By Peter Exley
New Zealand take on Sri Lanka at Trent Bridge today in a game that could see the Black Caps crash out of the competition if they were to lose.
After capitulating against Pakistan on Saturday, New Zealand will need a much-improved performance to keep any dreams of progression alive. Only a massive win will do for the Black Caps to ensure that their net run rate is superior to Sri Lanka to knock them out although Sri Lanka will be confident after recent wins over Pakistan and Ireland that they are good enough to overcome the threat of New Zealand.
Daniel Vettori’s men suffered at the hands of Umar Gul’s impressive bowling on Saturday and were all out for just 99, which will send worrying messages to the batting line-up considering that they will face up to arguably the best bowling attack in the tournament and the likes of Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga will be chomping at the bit to continue their devastating form.
New Zealand have also been making the headlines for the wrong reasons following their latest defeat, with alleged accusations of ball tampering from Vettori perhaps shifting focus away from the cricket itself. However, the Black Caps have proved in big tournaments that they pull out the results when it counts but they will need something extra special to eliminate Sri Lanka today.
The New Zealand faithful will be hoping that injury doubt Brendon McCullum, right, who broke his finger in a collision with team mate Neil Broom, will be able to play through the pain in today’s match as their frail batting will need all the help it can get. and they may be boosted by the return of Ross Taylor.
The Black Caps have been heavily reliant on McCullum in the recent past especially with Scott Styris and Jacob Oram struggling for form, so for him to miss out in this crucial match would be a huge blow to his team’s hopes.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, are flying high at the moment, brushing aside all comers to maintain their unbeaten record in the tournament. Clinical wins against the West Indies and Pakistan must surely make them the favourites for this encounter and perhaps for the whole tournament. With the innovative Tillakaratne Dilshan at the top of the order and the mystery of Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan in the middle overs, Kumar Sangakkara must be confident that his team have the credentials to snub out any threat from the stubborn New Zealanders.
With injury doubts and controversy behind the scenes, New Zealand are up against it coming into today’s match which could see them eliminated from the competition, and it seems that nothing but a miracle will be able to stop a rampant Sri Lanka in their tracks who are looking to follow their Asian rivals Pakistan into the semi-finals.
© Cricket World 2009