Preview: Sri Lanka look for full points from Zimbabwe game

Sri Lanka would aim for a comprehensive victory over Zimbabwe at Pallekele

By Suneer Chowdhary

 

Pallekele: Mar 10, 2011


The first time that Zimbabwe played Sri Lanka in a World Cup game, it had taken a debut-century from Andy Flower and a near-century from man-of-the-match Arjuna Ranatunga to have the biggest chase in a winning cause in World Cup cricket. The record stayed till Kevin O’Brien had had enough and banished the English side to 329.

 

Since then, Sri Lanka have put on their skating boots and shown enough improvement to win a World Cup, enter the final of another and go into this one as one of the pre-tournament favourites. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, showed signs of improvement in the late 1990s and early 2000s before political unrest changed overturned whatever progress they had made.

 

So, when the two sides meet at the newly constructed stadium at Pallekele near Kandy, the home team will not only be gunning for full points but also a morale-boosting sweep after the loss to Pakistan and the abandoned game against Australia. Zimbabwe, on the contrary will go into the game with a loss in their must-win, virtual pre-quarter-final against New Zealand. It was a ten-wicket rout.

 

The previous game on this new ground threw up a couple of interesting factors that the two captains will want to consider before they decide on their playing eleven and their decision if they won the toss. One, there was enough swing and bounce throughout the game for the quicker bowlers to make the skippers rethink their strategy of going in with plethora of spin bowlers.

 

Secondly, in the previous game, the latter half of the second innings showed that the ground was inundated with enough dew to make things awkward for the bowling side. That the Pakistani side had already lost half their side ensured that the Kiwis did not have to sweat too much.

 

Based on these two facts, the side winning the toss could decide to bowl first and then try and preserve their wickets through the initial portion of the second innings.

 

This will also dictate the team selection. Sri Lanka had dropped Nuwan Kulasekera in the previous game against Australia to accommodate a third frontline spinner. For this encounter, Kulasekera could make his way back into the playing eleven and there is a good chance that Rangana Herath will move out.

 

Zimbabwe will also look to get in an extra pace bowler if the track continues to show growth of the green on it. Tinashe Panyangara had replaced the injured Christopher Mpofu in the previous game but went for many in his spell. However, it may not be such a bad idea to give both, Panyangara and Mpofu a go together, especially when one needs to consider the wet outfields. One of Greg Lamb or Graeme Cremer could miss out.

 

Teams

 

Sri Lanka (Probable): Upul Tharanga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (c&wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Angelo Mathews, Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan.

 

Zimbabwe (Probable):  Brendan Taylor, Charles Coventry, Tatenda Taibu (wk), Craig Ervine, Elton Chigumbura (c), Regis Chakabva, Greg Lamb, Prosper Utseya, Graeme Cremer, Ray Price, Tinashe Panyangara/Chris Mpofu.

 

Umpires: Marais Erasmus (South Africa) and Nigel Llong (England).

 

Time: 14.30 local (09.00 GMT)

 

 

(Suneer is a Mumbai-based cricket writer and can be contacted at suneerchowdhary@gmail.com and Tweets here: @suneerchowdhary)

 

 

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