Sri Lanka would want to end series on a positive note © Getty Images
Sri Lanka would want to end series on a positive note © Getty Images

New Zealand and Sri Lanka clash for the final time in the seven-match One-Day International (ODI) series at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Thursday. With the series already surrendered to the hosts courtesy thumping defeats in the fifth and sixth one-dayers, Sri Lanka will look to win their final bout before the onset of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

New Zealand added to Sri Lanka’s woes in their miserable ongoing tour, in which they lost the Test series 0-2, by winning the sixth ODI at Dunedin by a dominating margin of 120 runs. It was a repeat of their performance in the fifth encounter, with New Zealand managing to recover from an early wicket to set a target in excess of 300, courtesy Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor‘s brilliance at the top-order. The Sri Lankan batsmen once again failed to rise to the occasion, with only veteran batsman Kumar Sangakkara putting up a fight with a 66-ball 81. Six Sri Lankan batsmen returned to the pavilion with single-digit scores.

The hosts have been at their dominant best, with all of their departments functioning as desired. While Kane Williamson continues to exhibit flamboyance in every innings, Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor have been in good touch with the bat, barring an innings or two. The biggest performer however, has been the middle-order, with Luke Ronchi and Grant Elliott stealing the show in the fifth ODI with a record unbroken 267-run stand to rescue their side from 93 for five to a total of 360.

The bowling department too has been in fine form, with Trent Boult and Corey Anderson taking four-wicket hauls in the fifth and sixth games. They have been successful in getting the important breakthroughs in their way, and have successfully managed to utilise the favourable bowling conditions to their advantage in most games. Having successfully utilised bowlers such as Boult and Tim Southee, the Kiwi team management would want to give Adam Milne another shot, especially since he was economical in the fourth game at Nelson.

The visitors have a barrage of worries when they head to the seventh one-dayer, which will be the last ODI the Sri Lankans will play before their inaugural World Cup encounter, against the same opponents at Christchurch on February 14. In the batting department, Lahiru Thirimanne and and others will have to think about the failing middle-order, which has been below average throughout the series, especially in the fourth one-dayer in which Sri Lanka collapsed to a total of 276 from 245 for four.

The bowling department has been even worse, especially in the last two games. In both clashes, the Sri Lankan pacers managed to get the early advantage with a dismissal. New Zealand lost their first wicket in the last couple of games without adding a run to their tally, but ended up scoring major totals. Sri Lanka’s inability to contain the middle-order has been costly for the visitors, and will cast a shadow over the team’s psyche and performance in the World Cup if not addressed soon.

The Sri Lankans need to put the defeats behind them, and focus on maintaining a positive vibe in the dressing room. Winning the final one-dayer would not change the outcome in any way whatsoever. It would however help Sri Lanka gain some confidence.

Squads:

New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (c), Luke Ronchi (wk), Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori, Kane Williamson, Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Tim Southee, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan.

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga, Dhammika Prasad, Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dimuth Karunaratne.

Time: 01:00 GMT | 06:30 IST

(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, travelling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)