There’s been no respite for Sri Lanka whatsoever. After pulling off an improbable draw in the first Test, their journey has been going downhill. They lost the Test series 1-0 and were then blanked 3-0 in ODIs. Their only chance left to taste victory on this New Zealand tour will be in the only T20I that will be played at Eden Park, Auckland, where the highest total reads 245 for 5.
New Zealand will have a new captain in Tim Southee, for Kane Williamson has been rested. The pacer will leave no stone unturned to deny Sri Lanka a triumph.
Danushka Gunathilaka sustained a back injury in the last ODI and won’t be available for the series opener.
My XI: Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Martin Guptill (vc), Ross Taylor, Glen Phillips, Dasun Shanaka, Colin Munro (c), Mitchell Santner, Thisara Perera, Lockie Ferguson, Ish Sodhi, Lasith Malinga
Note: Make your fantasy cricket team by knowing the statistics.
Dickwella is one of the few Sri Lankan batters who has been consistent on the tour. Thanks to his aggressive game that he catches the bowlers in two minds, forcing them to squander. He has failed twice to convert fifties into a three-figure mark. He might as well achieve that on Friday.
Guptill is the highest scorer in T20Is, with 2,271 runs at 34.4. Such staggering is his stature in the format that both his hundreds came against powerhouses, Australia and South Africa. If Sri Lankan bowlers do not get their line and length right, Guptill will grind them to the dust before they realise it.
I’ll tell you how spectacular Taylor has been in ODIs of late. His last 10 innings read: 1, 59, 113, 0, 181*, 80, 86*, 54, 90, 137, and has shot up to the third place in ICC ODI Rankings. Although T20 is a different format, Taylor’s form and experience forces us to add him to our fantasy team.
As we are left with only 16 points, we have added Shanaka and Phillips to accommodate a place for Dickwella. However, this does not mean that they lack swagger. They may not be high-profile players, but they can rip apart a bowling attack with their power-hitting skills.
We have as many as three all-rounders. This is T20 cricket, after all: we need players who are effective with both bat and ball.
Munro is ranked second in the ICC T20I rakings for batters. He has 3 hundreds and 8 fifties in the format.
Santner is back to the squad. His slow left-arm orthodox adds more variety to New Zealand’s bowling. He has best figures of 4 for 11.
Thisara is at the sixth position in ICC T20I rakings for all-rounders. You can choose either him or James Neesham: both have been making headlines of late.
The average scores read 172 and 149 in first and second innings respectively, so bowlers are likely to have a tough time keeping a lid on the runs. For that, we have Malinga, the bowler who is tailormade for the fastest and shortest format; Sodhi, who ranks sixth in the ICC T20I rankings for bowlers; and Ferguson, the man in form.
Playing XI for New Zealand: Colin Munro, Martin Guptill, Glenn Phillips, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tim Seifert (wk), Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee (c), Doug Bracewell, Ish Sodhi, Lockie Ferguson
Playing XI for Sri Lanka: Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Asela Gunaratne, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lasith Malinga (c), Lakshan Sandakan, Kasun Rajitha
The flat-track bullies will have a good time here. Get ready for a high-scoring game. The crowd will be busy catching sixes in the stands.
New Zealand: Tim Southee (c), Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Scott Kuggeleijn, Colin Munro, James Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Glenn Phillips, Seth Rance, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Ross Taylor
Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga (c), Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Asela Gunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Lakshan Sandakan, Seekkuge Prasanna, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Sadeera Samarawickrama