After heavy defeats in the first two One-Day Internationals of its five-match series against New Zealand, Sri Lanka enters the last ODI in Mount Maunganui on Tuesday (January 5) with a chance at squaring the series. The washout in the fourth ODI has meant the scoreline staying static on 2-1, giving added importance to the final match.
New Zealand will continue to be without Brendon McCullum though, with Kane Williamson set to lead the team again. McCullum hasn’t yet recovered from a back injury, and Mike Hesson, the New Zealand coach, indicated the condition was more serious than had been assumed previously. “He’s really struggling,” said Hesson. “He hasn’t progressed as well as we’d thought. He will get a further assessment.”
McCullum’s is just one of a series of injuries to have hit New Zealand in the past few weeks. Tim Southee, whose left foot injury kept him out of the fourth ODI, will continue to be out of action, possibly even for the two-match Twenty20 International series that is to follow.
New Zealand, however, will be bolstered by the return of Trent Boult, who is coming off a period of rest. New Zealand has adopted a rotation policy, which means Doug Bracewell has been given a break.
With the Mount Maunganui track known to be on the slower side, New Zealand may once again opt for a specialist spinner in Ish Sodhi to go alongside Mitchell Santner’s left-arm spin. That may mean that Boult would join two of the in-form Matt Henry and Mitchell McClenaghan, and Adam Milne.
Boult said he was a fan of the rotation policy as he felt it kept the competition up, adding that he was itching to go. “It is nice to be back with the lads and back at my home ground so it is pretty nice. It is going to be an interesting battle and I am itching to go,” said Boult.
“It is a big opportunity for us to press for a convincing series win in my opinion. The guys have been playing really well and I am looking forward to getting out there. There is a pretty healthy battle going on (between bowlers). I think Matt Henry has been superb and Dougy (Bracewell) has been going well all season.”
Sri Lanka’s strength in the spin department may come in handy now more than ever. The visiting side has experienced spinners in the likes of Sachithra Senanayake and Ajantha Mendis, as well as the young Jeffrey Vandersay, who can all come in handy if the surface plays sluggish as it usually does, and can also help in containing the New Zealand batsmen, who are known for their slam-bang approach.
While the approach of New Zealand’s batsmen has been extremely effective several times in the past, they will also be mindful of the value of wickets in hand, especially if the surface plays slower.
After poor outings in the first two games, Sri Lanka’s batsmen showed the ability to hold their own in the third ODI, where the top three made big contributions to facilitate a comfortable chase of 277.
Even though the campaign has been injury-riddled for New Zealand, it still has the wherewithal to pose a significant threat to Sri Lanka.
The home team will be eager to finish the series with a victory, given the fantastic start it had. Conversely, Sri Lanka will know that coming away with the series level after losing the first two ODIs is no mean feat, which should set up a cracking contest.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Trent Boult, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi (wk), Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Ross Taylor,.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne, Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Nuwan Pradeeep, Danushka Gunathilaka, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Sachithra Senanayake, Milinda Siriwardana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Kithuruwan Vithanage.