Cricket: Fresh faces to take on T20 titans

By David Leggat

Anderson and Munro’s striking power bolsters squad to face top-ranked Sri Lanka.

There's a fresh look to the New Zealand squad for their two T20 internationals against Sri Lanka, starting at Bay Oval today.

And the first match also marks the start of the countdown to the world tournament in India in March.

Coach Mike Hesson hinted yesterday there are other players likely to get an opportunity in the three T20s against Pakistan later this month.

He and fellow selector Gavin Larsen have trimmed their squad options for India down to 17 or 18 but, while form is always relevant, Indian conditions will bear little relation to the surfaces in New Zealand, so those players need to grab their chance.

Corey Anderson's return after a lengthy layoff with a back injury is welcome, even if his bowling is another couple of weeks away.

Add another left-hander - Auckland's belligerent hitter Colin Munro - and the middle/late innings organisational talents of Grant Elliott (returning from a wrist injury) and it's an exciting blend.

"It's nice to bring fresh faces who are feeling confident about their game and have performed well for us in the past," Hesson said yesterday. "They'll add real striking power to our batting lineup."

Seamer Matt Henry is in rare one-day form - 13 wickets in the past three ODI innings - and gets an opportunity to add to his three T20 performances. He replaces Tim Southee, who is out of the five T20s to help his foot recover from bone bruising.

New Zealand played only four T20s in 2015, winning against Zimbabwe and South Africa, and losing to England and the South Africans. This year, they are starting a rare run of shortest form games as preparation for India.


Sri Lanka won the most recent tournament two years ago, but have lost batting giants Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara to retirement, fast-medium bowler Lasith Malinga to injury, tricky finger spinner Ajantha Mendis to form and opener Kusal Perera to a drug ban.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Chandimal leads Sri Lanka, but his form when skipper hasn't been flash - just 88 runs at 11. They do have serious hitting power, however.

Then again, Martin Guptill is in rare touch right now. His hundred on Tuesday suggested a carrying on of his limited-overs form of last year, when he scored more runs, 1489, than any other batsman.

"To be able to keep scoring runs when you've got that form is another skill rather than going too hard, too soon. He's making the most of his form," Hesson said.

There's also the small matter of a world No1 ranking for Sri Lanka to defend. New Zealand, by contrast, are ranked a lowly eighth, their poorest position of the three ranking ladders. Much to play for, then.

NZ v Sri Lanka

First T20, Bay Oval, 3pm today

New Zealand: (from) Kane Williamson (c), Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott, Colin Munro, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Matt Henry, Adam Milne, Mitch McClenaghan, Trent Boult.

Sri Lanka: (from) Dinesh Chandimal (c), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Danushka Gunathilaka, Angelo Mathews, Chamara Kapugedera, Milinda Sirawardana, Shehan Jayasuriya, Kithuruwan Vithanage, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Sachithra Senanayake, Suranga Lakmal, Isuru Udana, Dushmantha Chameera, Jeffrey Vandersay

- NZ Herald

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