Gulf News

Crucial encounter

SRI LANKA WILL OFFER SKIPPER FLEMING HIS TOUGHEST CHALLENGE SO FAR HEAD-TO-HEAD

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New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming believes his side can win the World Cup: their Super Eights match against fellow contenders Sri Lanka here today will go a long way to seeing if he is right.

The Black Caps — like defending champions Australia unbeaten at the tournament so far — top the Super Eights table on run-rate.

But unlike Australia, who've beaten South Africa, and are chasing an unpreceden­ted third straight title, they've yet to come up against a leading one-day internatio­nal side at this event although they did defeat England by six wickets in their opening group match.

One more victory will see New Zealand, yet to win the World Cup, into the last four.

Today's match marks the start of a run of games that sees them up against 1996 champions Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia in the space of 10 days in Grenada.

"We know we are capable of winning it," said Fleming.

But all-rounder Jacob Oram added: "These three games will either build on our confidence or chip away at it."

New Zealand are now just one short of equalling their 10-match winning run of 2004, having already beaten Australia three times at home before coming to the Caribbean.

However, Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawarden­e for one believes New Zealand have yet to be tested at this tournament.

"They are playing some really good cricket but they haven't played one of the top teams yet," he told AFP.

Hosts New Zealand, third in the Internatio­nal Cricket in NZ in neutral Overall M 27 SL 23 66 NZ SL 17 9 16 5 12 9 34 28 In WC 5 3 last 10 10 5 Highest team total: for NZ: 304-5 (50 ov) (Auckland) 20-3-1983 for SL: 293-4 (50 ov) (Colombo, SSC) 5-7-1998 Lowest team total: for NZ: 73-10 (26.3 ov) (Auckland) 6-1-2007 for SL: 112-10 (35.2 ov) (Christchur­ch) 2-1-2007 Highest individual score: for NZ: 141 - SB Styris (Bloemfonte­in) 10-2-2003 for SL: 140 - ST Jayasuriya (Bloemfonte­in) 8-12-1994

-Mohandas Menon 2 4

Malinga uncertain

Nr T 1 0 10 10 1 1 3 1 00 1 0 Council (ICC) one-day ratings, and fourth-placed Sri Lanka squared a five-match series 2-2 in January after the final game was washed out.

But the balance of today’s match could swing New Zealand's way before a ball is bowled if Lasith Malinga is ruled out.

Sri Lanka's fast bowling ace missed practice on Tuesday after sustaining ligament damage in his left ankle during an earlier training session.

Malinga, whose roundarm action makes him difficult to face — New Zealand asked umpires to put sweaters round their waists to act as an additional sightscree­n last time they played against him — tops the tournament bowling averages with 15 wickets at an average of under 15.

And against South Africa his record-breaking four wickets in four balls so nearly saw Sri Lanka to a stunning win.

"Lasith has an ankle problem and we'll assess it over the next couple of days. We're not sure he's 100 per cent," Jayawarden­e explained.

Farveez Maharoof and Nuwan Kulasekara, the most likely replacemen­ts, don't spook opponents as much as Malinga. But last time out unheralded quick Dilhara Fernando saw Sri Lanka to a two-run win over England by clean bowling Ravi Bopara on the last ball.

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 ?? Reuters ?? New Zealand's Michael Mason juggles cricket balls during a training session.
Reuters New Zealand's Michael Mason juggles cricket balls during a training session.

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