Cricket: New Zealand face tough task ahead in Sri Lanka

By David Leggat

Bristling Colin Munro is fresh off back-to-back clubbings of modest Bangladeshi bowling. Photo / AP
Bristling Colin Munro is fresh off back-to-back clubbings of modest Bangladeshi bowling. Photo / AP

The last time New Zealand won an ODI in Sri Lanka was 10 years ago. Sound vaguely familiar?

There were 10 international losses and draws in Bangladesh between October 2008, when New Zealand won a test in Chittagong, and this week's T20 win in Dhaka.

So might a change of country bring a change in results, starting in Hambantota tomorrow night? There have been T20 and test successes on the Teardrop Island recently, but their ODI record there doesn't inspire confidence.

Out of 24 completed ODIs going back to 1984, New Zealand have won just five - four of those coming inside the first six matches in Sri Lanka.

There has been just one win in the past 15 games, in 2003, when long-gone names such as Tuffey, Nevin, Harris, Adams and Vincent were there.

The only survivor from that match is the present stand-in skipper Kyle Mills, who will be impressing on his players that they need to deliver far more than they did in their 3-0 bouncing by Bangladesh in that ODI rubber.

Things may get stickier before they turn sweet, however. Sri Lanka are ranked fourth in ODI cricket, and close to second; New Zealand sit eighth. Sri Lanka have a clutch of quality operators.

The batting will be led by Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillekaratne Dilshan and captain and allrounder Angelo Matthews, all skilled, experienced batsmen.

The slippery, deceptive slinger, Lasith Malinga, sleight-of-hand spinner Ajantha Mendis and the orthodox left armer (and past nemesis) Rangana Herath lead a bowling group who can be expected to make life difficult for batsmen not completely at home in the sub-continent.

Of much interest will be seeing the development of a younger group making their way in the side. The squad does look skinny. There's no Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson and Tim Southee over there so there's an obvious challenge.

Three lefthanders, busy opener Anton Devcich, bristling Colin Munro - fresh off back-to-back clubbings of modest Bangladeshi bowling - and the prodigious hitter Corey Anderson have the chance to make it clear they could have parts to play with an eye far off on the World Cup in early 2015. Hamish Rutherford, woefully out of touch, simply needs runs.

There is a recall for Canterbury opener Rob Nicol who looked to have done his chips in South Africa early this year, while Andrew Ellis adds a touch of stability, and can hit cleanly around No8.

Mills, however, is central to the bowling effort. He needs to lead by deed.

Otago's seasoned Ian Butler is back in, while fellow pace pair Mitchell McClenaghan and Adam Milne must show more than they did in Bangladesh.

So plenty to watch in an individual sense, all the while realising New Zealand must collectively find a way out of the ODI closet they stepped into in Bangladesh.

- NZ Herald

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