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No-ball ghost haunts the hosts

The tri-series enters its second round-robin phase when table-toppers New Zealand face bottom-placed Sri Lanka at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium on Thursday. However, to nobody's surprise, the shadow of the no-ball incident will loom large over the tie.

cricket Updated: Aug 19, 2010 00:00 IST
Amol Karhadkar

The tri-series enters its second round-robin phase when table-toppers New Zealand face bottom-placed Sri Lanka at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium on Thursday. However, to nobody's surprise, the shadow of the no-ball incident will loom large over the tie.

Suraj Randiv's premeditated no-ball to deny Virender Sehwag a century has not merely tarnished Lanka's reputation of playing fair. It forced the team to keep an eye on the action Sri Lanka Cricket initiated on the guilty players on the eve of the game, instead of focussing on preparations. It has demoralised the hosts, who are the only team to have failed to win a bonus point so far.

It has also catapulted the pressure on Sri Lanka to set the incident aside and come up with a performance to keep themselves in the hunt of a place in the final.

Naturally, without any active contribution over the last five days, New Zealand, despite losing to Sri Lanka during their last week's face-off, enter the match with a solid advantage. Though skipper Ross Taylor agreed that they were favourites, he cited a purely cricketing reason for it.

"The thing in our favour more than is that they (Sri Lanka) played two games in a row which has been tough and teams which have played a couple of games in a row they usually have not won," Taylor said on Wednesday. "I guess they will be a bit tired and this is an area we will exploit but they (Sri Lankans) are professionals and these are their conditions. I think will be ready for the fight."

If the Kiwis have to put additional pressure on the lions, their top order has to fire. In both their earlier games, they have lost three wickets in the first 10 overs, resulting in the lower middle order being exposed a tad too early. Rookie Kane Williamson, having failed to open his account in each of his first two international appearances, will be keen to justify his selection.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, will be forced to make at least one change since the SLC bigwigs suspended Randiv from Thursday's tie. But Sangakkara also hinted at a reshuffle in the batting department, which could mean Chamara Silva getting an eye in instead of Chamara Kapugedera.

"We choose the team according to the track and the opposition. There will be some changes in the spin department. In batting as well, we have a few things to think about," Sangakkara said.