January 10, 2016
Start time 1500 local (0200 GMT)
For Sri Lanka it is a case of lose the game, then lose the series and the No. 1 T20 ranking too © Getty Images
New Zealand have usually outclassed Sri Lanka with ease across two southern summers, but even in the matches that the visitors have dominated, New Zealand have still found the means to prevail. Sri Lanka had looked good going into the final four overs in Mount Maunganui, with Grant Elliott likely to bowl one of those overs. Yet, through intelligent bowling and good catching, New Zealand ensured they would not lose a series this tour.
During the recent limited-overs series, New Zealand have gained definitive ground at the top of Sri Lanka’s innings, even with their depleted attack. In the first T20, Sri Lanka were 42 for 4 after five overs – the chase already on the rocks. Sri Lanka have a sturdier middle order, with Milinda Siriwardana continuing to impress at No. 6, but the top order will hope that Eden Park’s small boundaries will at least hide its frailties in this final game.
New Zealand, meanwhile, appear to have a top-order plan in place for the World T20. Ross Taylor is expected to have a long run at No. 5 in this format, now called on to finish the innings. Colin Munro hit a 26-ball 36 that should help tighten his grip on that No. 3 spot.
Sri Lanka have taken pride in safeguarding their top T20 ranking more or less since the 2012 World T20, but if they complete their modest tour with another defeat, they will be knocked off their perch.
New Zealand: WWLWL (last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LLWLL
In the spotlight
Ross Taylor’s move to No. 5 means Corey Anderson assumes the No. 4 position, for now at least. It is hoped that more time at the crease will translate into longer-lasting assaults from Anderson. He will start bowling again before the end of the month too, but for now, Eden Park may be the perfect ground to ease Anderson into his new batting role.
Poised at the crease, and powerful off the front foot, Danushka Gunathilaka has been Sri Lanka’s most recent find of the tour. With two bright innings, he has almost made up for Kusal Perera’s unavailability at the top of the order. He has struck big, straight sixes during this tour – including two that measured over 100 metres – but also perished in the outfield, going for that straight boundary. Eden Park’s dimensions might suit him nicely as well.
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson had said all 13 in New Zealand’s squad would play at some point of the series. This means Adam Milne and Mitchell Santner are both likely to play this match. Ish Sodhi and Mitchell McClenaghan appear likeliest to be left out.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Kane Williamson (capt), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Colin Munro 4 Corey Anderson, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Grant Elliott, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Luke Ronchi (wk), 9 Adam Milne, 10 Matt Henry, 11 Trent Boult
Thisara Perera’s place is under threat after a modest outing in Mount Maunganui, as is Suranga Lakmal’s spot. Isuru Udana and Dushmantha Chameera may have roles to play.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Danushka Gunathilaka , 3 Dinesh Chandimal (capt & wk), 4 Shehan Jayasuriya, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Milinda Siriwardana, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Thisara Perera/Isuru Udana , 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Jeffrey Vandersay
Pitch and conditions
The drop-in pitch at Eden Park is usually full of runs, but can turn on occasion. The weather is expected to be dry, even if a little cloudy.
Stats and trivia
- West Indies will become the No. 1 T20 team (on decimal points, being tied on 118 points with Sri Lanka and Australia) if Sri Lanka lose at Eden Park
- Following McCullum’s retirement, Martin Guptill is now New Zealand’s top T20 run scorer with 1472 career runs. That puts him at fifth on the overall list
- New Zealand have played 10 T20s at Eden Park, and won exactly half of those games
“It’s our first time back since the semi-final, and it brings back some good memories, running down those stairs and trying to get to the middle as quickly as possible… We talked about it walking down the tunnel today. It doesn’t actually seem that long ago.”
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson on playing the first international match at Eden Park since the thrilling World Cup semi-final victory over South Africa
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo