Sri Lanka, as they have been in the other formats have struggled in T20Is as well. They have been struggling for the right combination and their batting has once again been their worry. New Zealand, on the other hand, seemed to have cracked the code of the shortest format of the game. With a host of all-rounders and an explosive batting line up, New Zealand has been one of the stronger T20 sides.
They defeated India in a closely contested series at home earlier this year and they will be really confident against this struggling Sri Lanka side. Kane Williamson will be missing this Series and Tim Southee will be captaining the side in his absence. Martin Guptill and Colin Munro will return to the top of the order and the middle order will comprise of Tim Seifert and Ross Taylor followed by the All-rounders. They have the option of playing Tim Seifert at the top as well as he was brilliant against India in T20Is. With no Trent Boult, Time Southee and Lockie Ferguson will be the key for the visitors with Mitchell Santner leading the spin attack.
For Sri Lanka though Lasith Malinga returns to captain the side and their batting line up will depend a lot on Kusal Mendis and the explosive Avishka Fernando. The bowling line up of Sri Lanka led by Lasith Malinga himself is a good one and they would be hoping to restrict the New Zealand batting to reduce the pressure on their batters. Kusal Perera and Niroshan Dickwella who have been really inconsistent in the shorter format will want to step up in this series if they want to challenge a strong New Zealand side.
Colin Munro (New Zealand): Colin Munro is New Zealand’s best batter in this format. He has three hundred in this format and averages 33.5 with the bat at an incredible strike rate of 162. With his useful medium pace, he is a crucial member of the New Zealand T20 Side.
Lockie Ferguson (New Zealand): Lockie Ferguson has become New Zealand most important short-form, bowler. With the ability to bowl in excess of 90 mph consistently he gives them the breakthrough in the middle overs and pushes the opposition batters back with his express pace. Even though Ferguson hasn’t played too many T20Is he still is a crucial member of the bowling attack.
Avishka Fernando (Sri Lanka): Young Avishka Fernando hasn’t played too many T20Is for Sri Lanka yet but in ODIs, he has been good in his short stint with the National Side. He provides Sri Lanka with an attacking option at the top and he will be important for the hosts to provide them with good starts through the series.
Akila Dhananjaya (Sri Lanka): Dhanajaya has been reported for suspect action but considering his T20 and white ball pedigree he is still expected to play. His bowling is full of variations and on Sri Lankan pitches he can be really handful and will be crucial for the hosts with the ball. He is the x-factor Sri Lanka will be looking at to turn the tide in the middle overs.
What they said?
“We obviously had a disrupted buildup for the tests so it was nice to get 20 overs in today. Most of our batsmen got a good bat and the bowlers got through some work as well so, all in all, a pretty good day,” Said New Zealand batting coach Peter Fulton after their warm game.
“These young bowlers have to get match-winning performances and people have to tell that’s a match-winning bowler. We have a couple of guys, they have the ability, we have to look after them.” Sri Lankan captain Lasith Malinga had said about the young pacers in his side after the ODI retirement.
Sri Lanka XI:
Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Perera (wk), Avishka Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Malinga (c), Lakshan Sandakan
New Zealand XI:
Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Tom Bruce, Ross Taylor, Tim Seifert (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Scott Kuggeleijn, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee (c), Lockie Ferguson
With just a year to go for the T20 World Cup in Australia, all the teams will look to lock in on their best combinations. Every series played from now will see teams making changes and trying out different players to arrive at that perfect squad for the World Cup. Both these teams will be doing the same in this series. Sri Lanka will be hoping that their batters take some responsibility and New Zealand will hoping for good consistent performance from their players in the absence of Kane Williamson and Trent Boult.