Kiwis, Sri Lanka battle for group honours
New Zealand and Sri Lanka will lock horns in a fierce tussle for final group positions in their final match of the World Cup knockout round on Friday.cricket Updated: Mar 16, 2011 12:26 IST
New Zealand and Sri Lanka will lock horns in a fierce tussle for final group positions in their final match of the World Cup knockout round on Friday.
The pressure to qualify is now off with New Zealand and Sri Lanka joined in the last eight by fellow Group A sides Australia and Pakistan, but final positions are crucial as they determine opponents in the next round.
New Zealand have emerged as the tournament's dark horses, winning their past three matches, including an emphatic 110-run victory against the talent-packed but unpredictable Pakistan, their fourth success out of five.
The Black Caps have stumbled only once, against four-time champions Australia, but Daniel Vettori's men appear to have put that blip behind them.
"There's a very confident feeling in the camp at the moment," said all-rounder Jacob Oram.
"The guys have played well three games in a row now, so it's a turnaround from where we were last year, but we also have to realise that the actual business end of the tournament starts now.
"We have to win on Friday to give ourselves an even bigger confidence boost going into the quarters."
New Zealand's only major worry in the run-up to the day-night match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai is the fitness of Vettori and fast bowler Kyle Mills.
Vettori (knee) missed the 97-run win against Canada on Sunday while Mills left the field after only 2.4 overs of his spell with a strain in his left leg.
Runners-up in the 2007 edition, Sri Lanka have cantered to easy wins over Canada, Kenya and Zimbabwe but lost to Pakistan and saw their much-anticipated clash against Australia was abandoned due to rain.
Sri Lanka have brushed aside the issue of having to play their final league game in Mumbai despite being one of the tournament co-hosts.
"It's not a big deal," said all-rounder Angelo Mathews.
"The conditions are similar to Sri Lanka and the wickets are also slow. We have also played in India often.
"New Zealand have been playing good cricket and we have also been playing well. It would be a good challenge," said Mathews.
Only South Africa have confirmed qualification from Group B but finishing higher in the group could secure New Zealand or Sri Lanka a match against England, Bangladesh or the West Indies as opposed to the more highly fancied India or South Africa.