NZ v Pakistan
Pallekele, 10 tonight
New Zealand can hardly claim Pakistan are an unknown quantity when they square up in a crunch World Cup game in Pallekele, near Kandy tonight.
However, they can justifiably argue the venue in the Sri Lankan high country is a head-scratcher. This will be just the second international played there. The first, a test against the West Indies, was all but washed out in December.
New Zealand lost their home ODI series to Pakistan 3-2 a few weeks ago, paying hard for a lack of consistency in their game. But at least they will know the strengths of their opponents.
"They've got arguably one of the best bowling attacks in world cricket and for us to succeed, our top six batsmen have to stand up against them," New Zealand captain Dan Vettori said.
Pakistan's captain, Shahid Afridi, is runaway top wicket taker at the cup, with 14 at a princely 5.21 apiece. Tim Southee (seven at 12.42) and Hamish Bennett (six at 19.33) have been New Zealand's most successful.
The unbroken first-wicket stand of 166 between Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum in the 10-wicket win over Zimbabwe last Friday night did wonders for their averages.
They now sit first and fourth overall, at 135.0 and 118.0 respectively, having been dismissed once each in three games.
The downside of the Zimbabwe win at Ahmedabad is that none of New Zealand's other batsmen had any time in the middle.
"The batsmen who got the chance in Ahmedabad did a great job and the others, I think, are champing at the bit to get an opportunity," Vettori said.
The final selection is likely to boil down to a choice of veteran allrounder Jacob Oram, who has been omitted from the games against Australia and Zimbabwe, and the lively but erratic Hamish Bennett.
Pakistan's form line reads hot and cold. New Zealand's has been mainly cold for the past few months but Vettori sees a parallel.
"It's hard to know [why Pakistan are unpredictable]. I suppose the same accusation could be levelled at us.
"Some days we are able to put a performance together, some days we're not and sometimes we can't explain the reasons why that happens."
One consistency at the cup has been Afridi's toss-winning talents. He's won all three coin flips and chosen to bat each time.
His senior batsman, Misbah-ul-Haq, has carried on his terrific form in New Zealand - when he failed to reach at least 50 on just two occasions in eight innings - with scores of 65, 83 not out and 37 so far.
"He's having a great period. He's in a rich vein of form and hopefully we've learned from the way we bowled to him in New Zealand," Southee said.
Pallekele is also known as the Muttiah Muralitharan International Stadium, in tribute to Sri Lanka's local hero.
Two warm-up cup games had to be moved elsewhere because of unusually heavy rain, so quite how the pitch will play is anyone's guess. Low and slow and taking spin would be a reasonable punt.
NZ V PAKISTAN
New Zealand: (likely 12) Dan Vettori (c), Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor, James Franklin, Scott Styris, Nathan McCullum, Jacob Oram, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Hamish Bennett.
Pakistan: (likely 12) Shahid Afridi (c), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Shoaib Akhtar, Saeed Ajmal.