Angelo Mathews will lead Sri Lanka for the first time when they take on New Zealand in the only T20 at Pallekele on Tuesday.
The Sri Lankans will look to put their World T20 final defeat to West Indies behind with a win under their new captain. 25-year-old Mathews has a young team at his disposal as a few experienced players have been rested for the match.
Mahela Jayawardene, who quit the T20 captaincy following the World T20 loss, Lasith Malinga, arguably the best T20 pacer right now, and mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis won’t feature in the match and that will augment Mathews’ challenges. So Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan will be Mathews’ go-to men owing to their massive experience. Some eyes will also be on offspinner Akila Dananjaya who impressed during the World T20 not a little.
As for New Zealand, their performance in the World T20 was way below par. They reached the Super Eight stage but there they performed badly. This match gives them a big opportunity to restore their confidence a bit before the ODIs and Tests. However, they will certainly miss their seasoned spinner Daniel Vettori, who has been ruled out of the entire tour on account of an Achilles problem.
All said and done, Sri Lanka definitely go in as favourites owing to their brilliant home record but it’s actually New Zealand who want victory desperately because they need some confidence before the tougher part of the tour begins.
As far as the head-to-head between these two teams is concerned, the Black Caps have won five of their 10 ties and lost four, while one ended in a tie.
Sri Lanka: 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan 2 Upul Tharanga 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk) 4 Lahiru Thirimanne 5 Dinesh Chandimal 6 Jeevan Mendis 7 Angelo Mathews (c) 8 Thisara Perera 9 Nuwan Kulasekara 10 Akila Dananjaya 11 Sachithra Senanayake
New Zealand: 1 Brendon McCullum (wk) 2 Martin Guptill 3 Rob Nicol 4 Ross Taylor (c) 5 Kane Williamson 6 BJ Watling 7 James Franklin 8 Jacob Oram 9 Tim Southee 10 Ronnie Hira 11 Nathan McCullum