ICC World Cup 2019 : Sri Lanka vs New Zealand, Kane Williamson-led New Zealand will be touted as favourites to emerge triumphant against an unpredictable Sri Lankan side at Cardiff. Boosted by the recent thrashing of Virat Kohli-led Team Inda during the dress rehearsals of the ICC World Cup 2019, Kane Williamson-led New Zealand will be touted as favourites to emerge triumphant against an unpredictable Sri Lankan side at Cardiff in their opening clash of the quadrennial event on Saturday.
After conceding six trounces in the semi-final stages of world cricket’s biggest extravaganza, the Kiwi reached their first final in the previous instalment and will be looking to improve their unprecedented feat by winning the famous trophy for the first time.
With six triumphs out of possible 10 outings against New Zealand in the World Cup, the Dimuth Karunaratne-led side can only enter the high-octane clash with a better previous record on paper. In terms of squad and current form, Williamson’s side have the potential to shut-up shop the Lankan batting lineup with their formidable bowling department that ran riot against the Men in Blue.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (skipper), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.
The 1996 champions were eliminated by South Africa in the 2015 World Cup as they were bowled out for 134. Coming to the England and Wales quadrennial event, the young and promising Sri Lankan side will have the lowest win percentage in their favour in comparison to the nine other participating nations.
Mounting more pressure on the 1996 champions will be Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson and the in-form Ross Taylor as both have had tremendous batting partnerships on English soil. Williamson-Taylor duo will be the biggest threat for Lanka if their last six partnerships are concerned:121, 206, 101, 99, 95 and 83 in last six appearances.
NZ Possible XI: Guptill, Munro, Williamson (C), Taylor, Latham/Blundell, Neesham, Santner, Southee, Sodhi, Boult and Ferguson.
Williamson, Guptill and Karunaratne are today’s top captaincy options while Taylor, Mathews could be named the vice-captain for the match.
Top Fantasy Picks: Along with the captaincy and vice-captaincy options, other players to watch out for are Boult, Munro, Southee, Malinga, Thisara and Dhananjaya de Silva.
The Black Caps reached the final four years ago for the first time after six semi-final defeats, only to be soundly beaten by Australia in Melbourne.
Kane Williamson has replaced the swashbuckling Brendon McCullum as captain but the core of the team that came so close in 2015 remains.
Since the last World Cup, New Zealand have risen as high as second in the world rankings but have also been beaten at home by South Africa, England and India.
New Zealand beat fancied India in their opening World Cup warm-up game before going down to the West Indies.
Former Kiwi paceman James Franklin is confident Williamson’s side can claim their first World Cup trophy. “New Zealand are in a sweet spot. No one’s talking about us too much,” he said at the opening party of the 12th edition of the 50-over tournament.
“We’re forever the underdogs and that suits us quite well…. If we can get some form going over the next few weeks, there’s no reason why New Zealand couldn’t go on and win the World Cup,” added Franklin.
Taylor has been in breathtaking form in recent years in the one-day game, averaging over 60 in ODIs in 2017 and more than 90 last year.
Williamson, ranked 12th, and Martin Guptill, ranked 10th, are the other main dangermen in the New Zealand batting line-up.
Trent Boult leads an impressive bowling attack, with Colin de Grandhomme and Tim Southee for company. Spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner offer useful variety.
“The way T20 cricket goes, it can come down to six or 12 runs at the end of it, and ODI cricket is becoming an extended version of T20 cricket in my opinion. If you can make those big 17 or 18-run overs into 12-run overs, that can make a big difference in the end. If we’re clear on that, we can go a fair way in this tournament,” Boult said.
The Kiwis start clear favourites in their opener against 1996 winners Sri Lanka, a side that has slumped to ninth in the ODI rankings.
Newly appointed captain Dimuth Karunaratne, who has returned to the ODI fold after four years away, has been handed the responsibility of lifting a team that have lost eight of their past nine ODIs.
But Sri Lanka have an impressive World Cup record, with one title, two runners-up finishes and one semi-final appearance.
“Sri Lanka always find a way to do well in World Cups. Yes, there have been some different changes to the set-up. The captain himself hasn’t played one-day cricket for a while but he’s a wonderful player,” said former captain Mahela Jayawardene.
“They are trying to bring a bit more stability into the group. You still have some exciting talent — Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis. There are matchwinners in that unit. Four/five wins can get you a semi-final berth and Sri Lanka would be looking at that option and try and execute each game at a time. I still feel they have got a very good chance.”