Toss crucial for Black Caps against Sri Lanka

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 31/03/2014
Brendon McCullum
Photosport
FLIP OF A COIN: Blackcaps skipper Brendon McCullum will be hoping luck is on his side at the toss before NZ's virtual quarterfinal against Sri Lanka.

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OPINION: Watch the toss and then go back to bed.

There's only one reason why teams are dunking balls in buckets of water at training, then trying to bowl and catch with them. The dew and humidity at Chittagong's Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium have made World Twenty20 tournament night matches a lottery.

Everyone wants to chase and, if you can't, you're struggling.

No-one in their right mind could claim England are better than Sri Lanka or that they ought to have beaten South Africa having been set 197 to win yesterday morning.

But the plain facts are that if you bat second in a night game, a) the sluggish wicket quickens up and the ball slides on nicely and b) the opposition's bowlers can't execute their plans with anything like the same accuracy as normal.

So, in the interests of your mental health, if Sri Lanka ask New Zealand to bat in tomorrow morning's final Group 1 match, don't bother watching. The race to join South Africa as the second semifinal qualifier from Group 1 is probably over at that point.

If the opposite were to occur, get the coffee on, maybe rustle up some mouse traps and strap yourself in.

Everyone harps on about Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis and quick Lasith Malinga, but neither are nearly as effective in the wet as the dry. In the conditions that prevail here at night, it's an orthodox swing bowler like Nuwan Kulasekara who becomes Sri Lanka's most effective operator.

If you're Mendis and trying to push a wet ball out the front of your hand with the fingers, it's going to be hard work. Malinga can bowl yorkers at genuine pace, but his stock and trade has become cutters and slower balls and, again, he won't be able to land them with his customary proficiency.

New Zealand's bowlers will cope better, no doubt about it. Nathan McCullum doesn't generate any headlines, but he's almost been the best bowler in this group.

He doesn't head any wicket tables and won't strike fear into the opposition. But the name of this game is making sure the opposition finish with less runs than you have and McCullum's gone for just 24 and 20 in his last two starts.

In fact, New Zealand and Sri Lanka boast the most balanced attacks in the group. Imran Tahir and Dale Steyn have been good for South Africa, but the Proteas lack the consistency and variety of the other two teams. As for England, they all just bowl right-arm rubbish at 135 km/h.

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So, aside from the toss, it will be batting which decides whether it's New Zealand or Sri Lanka go through. On that score, you'd have to back the latter.

No New Zealand player looks in the kind of nick to do what guys like Mahela Jayawardene, Alex Hales and AB de Villiers have done for their teams. The Black Caps need big contributions from Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson at the top, allowing the others, say, 10 overs to hit at the end.

New Zealand produced their worst batting performance of the tournament, in chasing 152 to beat The Netherlands yesterday morning. All the batsmen got starts and then gave it away and that simply won't be acceptable against Sri Lanka.

- The Dominion Post

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