Rarely over-confident and never champions, New Zealand go into their World Cup 2019 opener against Sri Lanka in Cardiff on Saturday knowing they comfortably outrank their opponents across the scoreboards. As a team, the fourth-ranked and united Black Caps look down on ninth-ranked and often-divided Sri Lanka. New Zealand also possess players in the top-five batting, bowling, and allrounder rankings in Ross Taylor, Trent Boult, and Mitchell Santner, respectively, while Sri Lanka have none. But New Zealand would happily burn all their paper credentials for the physical trophy Sri Lanka lifted back in 1996, beating Australia in the final.
Key Players: The 35-year-old Ross Taylor, long a middle-order rock for his country, has topped 8,000 ODI runs in 218 appearances at an average close to 50, and is third in the batting rankings. Martin Guptill (10th), captain Kane Williamson (12th), and Tom Latham (27th) also rank higher than Sri Lanka’s highest-ranked batsman, Niroshan Dickwella (34th). Pacer Trent Boult is behind only India’s Jasprit Bumrah in the bowling rankings, with no Sri Lankan in the top 10.
Injury News: Tom Latham broke a finger this month and New Zealand has been hoping he’ll be available for this game. But if he isn’t, there’s a good backup in Tom Blundell, who has yet to make his ODI debut but hit a century against the West Indies in a warmup this week. With Henry Nicholls battling an injury, Colin Munro could take up the opening slot. Tim Southee is also battling a niggle. For Sri Lanka, young opener Avishka Fernando, who sustained a knock in the warm-up matches, is yet to be declared fit.
Pitch and Conditions: The weather is expected to be nice and cool with the temperature around 22 degree Celsius. Cloud cover is expected but there is only a 10 per cent chance of rain. Traditionally, the Cardiff pitch favours sides batting second. 14 out of the 20 ODIs at this venue were won by chasing teams.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson(c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham(w), James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne(c), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera(w), Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Jeevan Mendis, Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Isuru Udana, Lasith Malinga, Jeffrey Vandersay, Milinda Siriwardana, Nuwan Pradeep, Angelo Perera, Avishka Fernando
(With AP inputs)
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