Sri Lanka had every chance of making a winning start to the three-match T20I series versus New Zealand at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium. But it was the visitors, who didn’t panic even after being pushed back, and eventually came out trumps by five wickets with three balls to spare. Kusal Mendis’ 53-ball 79 propelled the hosts to a formidable score of 174 for four in their 20 overs.
In the run-chase, the Kiwis lost Colin Munro and Martin Guptill early, but Colin de Grandhomme and Ross Taylor’s 79-run stand staged a comeback for the Black Caps. There were as many as four overs where Tim Southee and Co scored 17 runs and never allowed the rate to mount. The second T20I is set to be played at the same venue on Tuesday and Lanka needs to find a way of drawling level.
Pitch and Conditions
The pitch in the first match turned out to be batting friendly and bowlers had to work hard. But the strip also gave some assistance to the spinners. Left-armer Mitchell Santner was hard to get away. Records say that the deck mostly plays in favour of the team, batting first. But keeping in mind the weather conditions, which forecasts rain before the match, teams should opt to field first.
Kasun Rajitha was Lanka’s most expensive bowler the other night, conceding 44 runs in his four overs without any success. There could be a chance that Lahiru Kumara comes in place of him. Isuru Udana also faltered with the ball, but he is likely to be given a chance for making amends, keeping in mind his exploits in the format over the years. Hasaranga will be persisted with after his good show.
The T20I debutant prized out Ross Taylor’s wicket before the rain delay. Lasith Malinga gave the breakthroughs early and in the middle, but was expensive in his last over. In the batting department, Kusal Mendis was a big positive. It’s now time for the likes of Kusal Perera and Avishka Fernando to provide Mendis with the support. Dickwella, Shanaka and Udana also chipped in with vital cameos.
Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera (wk), Avishka Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Isuru Udana, Shehan Jayasuriya, Akila Dananjaya, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lasith Malinga (C), Kasun Rajitha/Lahiru Kumara
The visiting team has been dealt with a blow as Lockie Ferguson has been ruled out of the series due to a fractured thumb. The management has also decided not to name his replacement. Seth Rance was awful as he sprayed the ball all over the place, leaking 58 runs in his quota of four overs. Leggie Todd Astle may get a chance in his place, also because of the spin-friendly nature of the wicket.
Southee will be in good stead after giving only 20 runs and picking up Mendis and Perera. The Kiwi skipper was also hard to get away at the death. Concerns remain over Guptill and Munro as both couldn’t cease their poor run of form after the World Cup. A lot will again depend on how Ross Taylor bats. Grandhomme also showed that he can mix caution with aggression and show maturity.
Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Tim Seifert (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Ross Taylor, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Seth Rance/Todd Astle, Scott Kuggelejin, Tim Southee (C), Ish Sodhi
Probable Top Performers
Kusal Perera – Sri Lanka| Ross Taylor – New Zealand
TV – Sony SIX, Sony SIX HD
Online– Sony LIV
Match Timings – 19:00 IST and 19:00 local
The prediction is for New Zealand to win the match.
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