From being one of the dark horses to go the distance Sri Lanka stand on the brink of elimination in this Champions Trophy. The format has ensured that even one loss can be crucial, and there are no games that can be taken lightly.
Kumar Sangakkara’s men take on New Zealand in a day match at the Wanderers on Sunday, and on that pitch, the early start could make things tricky for the team batting first.
After an easy win against South Africa in the tournament opener Sri Lanka sounded an early warning. But their flat performance against England has thrown Group B wide open.
“It’s not as if we haven’t been in similar situations in the past,” said Kumar Sangakkara, adding, “We have handled such pressures quite well too.”
If Sri Lanka beat New Zealand they’re almost certain of a place in the semifinals. Conversely if they should lose to the Kiwis it will take complicated mathematical developments to allow them a backdoor entry into the knockout phase.
Sri Lanka’s chances will depend on how their experienced hands rise to the challenge. Sanath Jayasuriya needs to come good to ensure that calls for his ouster are kept to a minimum.
Muttiah Muralitharan, a bowler for all conditions and seasons, has managed just one wicket for 108 runs in the 18 overs he has sent down.
Sri Lanka chose to stick to their two spinner configuration against New Zealand in decidedly quick bowler friendly conditions and paid the price against England.
For New Zealand too, the game is a crucial one, not least because they will want to shrug off the cloak of domination the Sri Lankans smothered them with on the recent visit to the emerald island.New Zealand’s batting was never allowed to get going in Sri Lankan conditions. Perhaps the time has come for their fast bowlers, led by Shane Bond and bolstered by the return of Ian Butler, who has recovered from a stomach bug, to wrest back the initiative.
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