Cricket: History, weather not on Black Caps' side

By Cameron McMillan

Considering their record in the country, you'd think the New Zealand cricket side would be used to having dark ominous clouds hovering over them in Sri Lanka.

The Black Caps head into tonight's opening one-day international having won five of their 20 matches against Sri Lankan on their home soil.

They look to turn that record around in Pallekele tonight (NZT) in the first of a five-match series, weather permitting.

Rain played havoc with the one-off Twenty20 between the two sides with New Zealand put into bat on a pitch that had been under covers for three days. That resulted in none of their top six reaching double figures as they limped to 74 for seven from 14 overs before the match was abandoned only two overs into the host's reply.

Expect that to be a common theme on this tour, considering it's the wet season. Rain is forecast once again for tonight's match.

Skipper Ross Taylor told media overnight (NZT) that if they get out on the field he's expecting another tough outing on a damp Pallekele pitch.

"We played a little bit out there last night and obviously it's going to be a tough wicket for the batsmen,'' Taylor said.

"I feel sorry for the groundsman, It wasn't an ideal wicket for a Twenty20 match and it was very damp. In saying that, we didn't apply ourselves as well as we may would have liked.

"You never know - the sun might come out tomorrow morning and bake that wicket and it could be a totally different wicket as well, so we've just got to be flexible.''

The Black Caps have played 20 ODIs against Sri Lanka on their home soil, stretching back to 1984. Of their five victories in Sri Lanka, just one was achieved since 1986. Fifteen matches. One victory.

They've had better luck against other opposition however beating Pakistan by 110 runs in Pallekele last year and also cleaned up India by 200 runs in an ODI encounter a year earlier.

It will be a tall order to turn that record around the hosts though as they face a full strength Sri Lankan team containing the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga, Jeevan Mendis and Kumar Sangakkara who have all performed strongly against New Zealand in the past.

It's also New Zealand's first one-day international since mid-July.

History aside, Taylor's men are more concerned about doing the simple things right and making the best transition possible between formats.

"It's a lot easier to shift from Twenty20 to one-day cricket than from Twenty20 to a test match,'' he said. "Bowlers still bowl those right areas and obviously with these new rules, players and I guess officials will have to adjust quickly, but it's more a mindset change for our team. Obviously as batters we have to get ourselves in, keep wickets in hand and capitalise in the last 10 overs which is probably the main focus for our team so far.

"It is going to be tough but in Twenty20 you have a short period of time to score as many runs as possible, in 50 overs you don't have to go out there and play as attacking ... it's about absorbing all that pressure up front with the bat and keeping wickets in hand and capitalising with these new rules.''

New Zealand and Sri Lanka will be the first teams to test the new ODI rules, which sees a new ball at both ends and one powerplay which must be taken before the 40th over on top of the restrictions in place in the first 10 overs.

"These two new balls will be difficult for whichever team does bat first but, in saying that, if you can get a competitive total on the board then under lights here it could be a little bit difficult as well.''

Taylor confirmed that pace bowler Adam Milne has been ruled out of tonight's match after picking up a stomach bug.

New Zealand (from): Ross Taylor, Trent Boult, Andrew Ellis, James Franklin, Ronnie Hira, Tom Latham, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Tim Southee, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.

Sri Lanka (from): Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Akila Dananjaya, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Tharindu Kaushal, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Jeevan Mendis, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Upul Tharanga, Lahiru Thirimanne.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that the Black Caps had won just one of their last 15 encounters on Sri Lankan soil. They have in fact won six of their last 15 matches in Sri Lanka.

- nzherald.co.nz

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