Preview: Spirited New Zealand looks too good for inconsistent Sri Lanka
The last time Sri Lanka beat New Zealand in a T20I match was way back in the 2014 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Bangladesh. Ever since, New Zealand have four out of the four T20I games played between the two sides. This includes the first two matches of the ongoing 3-match T20I series between them in Sri Lanka.
New Zealand won the first game by 5 wickets and the second by 4 wickets, thus clinching the series already. With one more game to go, New Zealand would be keen to register a thumping clean sweep. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, would be desperate to finish on a high and save embarrassment in front of their home crowd.
Despite a struggling and unsettled top-order, New Zealand has been doing well primarily because of their middle-order. Colin de Grandhomme, with scores of 44 and 59, has been a real game-changer for the team. Tom Bruce’s 53 in a tense chase in the second innings holds him in good stead for the last match. It will be interesting to see if New Zealand Martin Guptill and Colin Munro retain their opening slot in the 3rd match or and of they can make an impact.Embed from Getty Images
New Zealand’s bowling has been led by captain Tim Southee who has been exceptional in both the games so far (2-20 and 2-18). Seth Rance showed great promise in the last game with a three-wicket haul. But Southee would want a better performance from his spinners Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi in the final game as the wickets suit them.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, has been hurt by their batting unit which hasn’t been consistent. Opener Kusal Mendis did well in the first game with a sparkling 79, but the others like Avishka Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera and Dasun Shanaka have got starts and given it away. The batting unit would hence need to be more responsible and produce a special performance in the last match to thwart the Kiwi bowlers.Embed from Getty Images
Sri Lanka’s bowling has been good, led by the veteran star bowler and captain Lasith Malinga who still has a lot of zing left. But Malinga would especially be pleased with the performance of spinner Akila Dananjaya in the second match (3-36) where he had most of the New Zealand batsmen struggling. Lakshan Sandakan and Isuru Udana were decent too. However, every Lankan bowler would need to step up for the last match if they need to avoid a whitewash.
Match prediction: Sri Lanka vs New ZealandEmbed from Getty Images
The good thing for both the teams is that the 3rd match too, like the first two, will be played at Pallekele. Both Sri Lanka and New Zealand would be used to the conditions now. The pitch has behaved evenly thorough the game and the team batting first must get a score in excess of 175 to have a chance.
Sri Lanka has batted first in both the games and lost. The hosts would now be looking to bat second in this game after curtailing New Zealand to a moderate score.
New Zealand is overall very strong and has all bases covered. They have shown the proclivity to get out of tough situations and are in form. Sri Lanka would try hard in this game and might subdue New Zealand. But the Kiwis have a better chance of winning the last match and sweeping the series 3-0.