After a disappointing loss in the Test series to England,New Zealand had regrouped wonderfully with a a 2-1 win in the ODI series. That,combined with the fact that New Zealand are a good tournament side,they would go into the Champions Trophy opener against Sri Lanka in Group A with a lot of confidence. While that maybe so,Sri Lanka have an overwhelming record of winning 10 of their last 11 ODI matches and six in a row against the Kiwis.
If the Kiwis are to make a match out of it,it almost goes without saying that their batsmen,who have improved since their Test loss,have to fire. Opener Martin Guptill smashed consecutive hundreds against England and Ross Taylor hit half-centuries in all the three matches of the ODI series. Skipper Brendon McCullum on his day can demolish any attack,but so much of the Kiwis fortunes would depended on how their top-order performs. The Kiwis are also perhaps the best acclimatised side after hosts England,having spent a good amount of time here. They know the conditions well which will help them sort out their team combination quickly.
However,while against England they faced a pace-pronged attack,in Sri Lanka they face a side which is full of wily spinners,led by Sachitra Senanayake. Jeevan Mendis,Rangana Herath are other specialist spinner while Tillakaratne Dilshan can also be handy. The spin attack would be key to Sri Lankas performance but they also have other trump cards in Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara,especially in helpful conditions. Even Kiwi coach Mike Hesson has acknowledged this fact. We could conceivably be facing 30-35 overs of spin. We need to be proactive against it, Hesson said ahead of the clash. The big worry for Sri Lanka is their batting. Neither the top-order nor the middle order batsmen are in good form. Mahela Jaywardene and Kumar Sangakkara never looked in good touch during the recent IPL.
Skipper Angelo Mathewes too had to sit out and and give up captaincy of his IPL side due to poor form. It means that the Kiwi attack,to be led by young paceman Mitchell McClenaghan,will bowl at a bunch of batsmen who are short on confidence. Tim Southee,Kyle Mills,Dough Bracewell form the pace department while Nathan McCullum will look after the spin concerns.