Cricket World Cup 2019: New Zealand meet Sri Lanka in Cardiff, an unfamiliar setting for unfamiliar teams
New Zealand and Sri Lanka have played three ODIs in three years. © AFP

Game three of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 pits two unfamiliar opponents together. New Zealand, ranked third in ODIs, against Sri Lanka, down at ninth.

Why unfamiliar, you ask? Because these two teams have had at it only three times in the last three years in ODIs. That series came in January of this year, when Kane Williamson‘s team blanked Sri Lanka 3-0. Sri Lanka ended that full tour winless across all three formats.

In a packed international calendar where certain teams end up meeting each other almost as much as fish meet chips in England – that would be you, India and Australia and India and Sri Lanka – these two opponents do not know quite what to expect on Saturday at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens as the open their respective World Cup campaigns.

It is that uncertainty which Williamson and Dimuth Karunaratne spoke of before the match, as well as how recent form does not count for much in a World Cup.

Williamson’s Black Caps are eager to keep playing their attractive brand of ODI cricket, while not looking back at the 2015 World Cup where they thrashed their way to the final at the MCG. Sri Lanka have won a solitary ODI this year, against Scotland a couple of weeks ago. Before that, they were beaten 0-3 in New Zealand lost all five matches in South Africa. They last beat New Zealand in an ODI in December 2015.

Sri Lanka have a new captain in Karunaratne, who was appointed in April having not played an ODI since 2015. In their ranks are veterans such as Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal and the recalled Lahiru Thirimanne. Their captaincy selections have been topsy-turvy over the past year, adding to the feeling that this is a jaded and somewhat incoherent team.

New Zealand vs Sri Lanka Cardiff
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne speaks to reporters in Cardiff. © ICC

Karunaratne, however, is positive and believes Sri Lanka can compete. He doesn’t want to look at the team’s recent ODI form. He believes the few faces add the desired punch, and hopes the seniors in the squad can punch above their weight.

It is a tough ask for Sri Lanka to compete against the likes of India, Australia, England and New Zealand, but the team believes it can be done.

Cardiff is where it begins.

What: New Zealand vs Sri Lanka

When: Saturday, June 1

Time: 03:00 IST

Venue: Sophia Gardens, Cardiff

Weather: Grey skies turned into blue as both teams wrapped up training. Saturday is expected to be mostly clear, with some clouds. The high is for 22 degrees Celsius.

Team News

New Zealand

Williamson confirmed that Tom Latham is fit for selection, which means that he will take over the wicketkeeping duties from Tom Blundell. Tim Southee and Henry Nicholls are still carrying niggles, said Williamson, but Colin Munro is fine.

If Nicholls isn’t available, Munro should open with Martin Guptill. Matt Henry could replace Southee.

Likely XI: 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Henry Nicholls/Colin Munro, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham (wk), 6 Jimmy Neesham, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Ish Sodhi, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Matt Henry/Tim Southee

Sri Lanka 

They are also undecided on their XI, with Karunaratne saying that he could bat at No 3 if needed. Sri Lanka will decided on their XI after inspecting the surface on match morning.

Three pace bowlers are expected, with Jeewan Mendis likely to slot in as the spin-bowling allrounder.

Likely XI: 1 Lahiru Thirimanne, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), 3 Kusal Perera (wk), 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Jeevan Mendis, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Nuwan Pradeep, 11 Lasith Malinga

Quotes

“We’re trying to compete with the others. All the teams are very competitive and strong, so we just need to give a good complete game. Winning or losing doesn’t matter. If we are giving a good complete challenge, you know, definitely we can be in the winning side.” – Karunaratne

“I don’t know how much the past really counts as we come into a tournament. It is on the day. We know in this competition that any team can beat any of the other teams, so we’re certainly treating all our matches like that. We want to bring the focus back to the cricket we want to play day in and day out.” – Williamson