The 2019 Cricket World Cup gets underway for the Black Caps tonight in Cardiff. Niall Anderson runs through all you need to know – well, at least most of what you need to know - about their opening game.
So who is playing in this here match?
Well, I'm glad you asked. This whole bit doesn't work without questions. It's New Zealand v Sri Lanka! The opening game for both teams at the World Cup, and it starts at 9.30pm NZT.
Sri Lanka? Again? Haven't we just played them?
Yes, quite a lot actually! The two teams played two tests, three ODIs and a Twenty20 in December and January.
Didn't we smash them?
Well, yeah. A 423-run win in the second test was their biggest win by runs in their 88-year test history, while Sri Lanka needed a historic effort to save a draw in the first. In the ODIs, some heroics from Thisara and Kusal Perera could only make the margin of defeats more respectable in a 3-0 sweep, and New Zealand also won the solitary T20.
Ok, so this should be an easy victory, right?
You would think so – New Zealand are at $1.25 to win, and haven't lost to Sri Lanka since 2015. But, because they have been so poor of late, Sri Lanka have made a raft of changes, bringing in several returning faces, including captain Dimuth Karunaratne who hasn't played an ODI since 2015. So they will at least bring a slightly new look to the game in Cardiff tonight.
Cardiff? They play cricket in Wales? What type of stadium are they playing at?
So many questions, good grief! They're playing at Sophia Gardens – such a fancy name – and it's a nice ground, which should provide more assistance for the bowlers than some of the other venues the Black Caps will encounter at this tournament. Add in some potential assistance from the weather with the 10.30am local start, some deep boundaries, and a rather green tinge to the wicket, and it could be a nice and even contest between bat and ball.
So we're not going to see 500 scored tonight?
You would certainly think not. If New Zealand win the toss and bowl, it wouldn't be a shock to see a repeat of their performance against India at The Oval on the cards. And besides, Kane Williamson believes that the much-anticipated big totals at the Cup may not be required to win every game.
Some wickets for Boult and Southee then?
Boult, surely, but Southee? Probably not. The long-time opening seam pairing might not be seen until next week, with Southee in serious doubt to play tonight with a right calf injury that restricted him from bowling in their final training. Matt Henry will likely get the nod to start instead.
Any other injury concerns?
Yes, in fact. Henry Nicholls has a right hamstring injury and didn't bat in training today, though his prospects look better than Southee's to be picked. If not, Colin Munro – who has also been injured, with a bruised foot – will open. Unless there's any late setbacks, Tom Latham will keep.
Who is likely to start for the Black Caps then?
The XI should look something like:
1. Henry Nicholls
2. Martin Guptill
3. Kane Williamson
4. Ross Taylor
5. Tom Latham
6. Jimmy Neesham
7. Colin de Grandhomme
8. Mitchell Santner
9. Matt Henry
10. Lockie Ferguson
11. Trent Boult
Who should we look out for from Sri Lanka?
I'm glad you didn't ask me to name the starting XI! Most people know about Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews, and the aforementioned Perera's are ones to watch. Another to potentially keep an eye on is Isuru Udana, who got a recall to play South Africa this summer - as a bowler - and proceeded to hit 78 off 57 balls in an ODI, batting at number nine, and 84* from 48 balls in a Twenty20, batting at number eight.
How can I follow this game?
You can listen to the game live on Radio Sport, and follow our live blog on nzherald.co.nz from 8.30pm, with commentary from cricket expert Dylan Cleaver and washed-up former cricket expert Eduan Roos. I will also be doing a Q+A pre-game.
Will your answers be better than this effort?
Almost certainly not!