The third match of the 2019 Cricket World Cup will witness last edition’s finalists New Zealand locking horns with the 1996 World Cup winners Sri Lanka.
The Kiwis start as firm favourites to outlast the islanders in the first encounter between both teams in this tournament.
New Zealand thrashed India in the first warm up game in what was a scintillating bowling display, and then got a brutal hammering at the hands of the unpredictable West Indies.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka were soundly defeated by both South Africa and Australia in their warm up matches.
New Zealand (Probable XI): Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (C), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (WK), Jimmy Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.
Sri Lanka (Probable XI): Dimuth Karunaratne (C), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera (WK), Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Jeevan Mendis, Thisara Perera, Isurua Udana, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga.
Kane Williamson vs Lasith Malinga
Williamson is the mainstay of the Kiwi line-up and carries the responsibility of leading the team and the batting line up.
The New Zealand skipper is a prolific batsman and has an enviable record of having amassed as much as 5555 runs from 139 matches. This comes at an average of 45.91 and at a very decent strike rate of 82.63.
Fans could expect the Kiwi star to anchor the innings, thus making way for the other batsmen to fire their way through the Sri Lankan bowling.
The 35-year old Lankan veteran Lasith Malinga has stood the test of time, and has been an absolute legendary performer for the island nation over the years.
The slingy fast bowler will be gunning for glory in his last World Cup and will be trying to emulate his own previous displays in the World Cup; one that even includes a mind boggling 4 wickets in 4 balls.
Even though those yorkers and slower deliveries do not trouble the batsmen as much as they once used to do, Malinga is still a tricky customer to deal with, and his expertise could be of use to the rather inexperienced Sri Lankan skipper.
The battle between Kane Williamson and Lasith Malinga is billed to be an intriguing one.
However, Williamson is someone who does not tinker with his technique too much, and Malinga might have too big a bone to chew with regards the New Zealand captain.
Hence, we expect Williamson to come up trumps through this particular contest.
Trent Boult vs Angelo Mathews
Trent Boult has been a vital cog in the New Zealand bowling attack over the years. The left arm Kiwi pacer is adept at testing batsmen on all surfaces, and is an excellent fielder.
From 79 ODI matches, Boult has managed to prise out 147 wickets at an excellent average of 24.71. His economy rate is merely 5.08 and on the lower side, and speaks volumes about his ability and control.
Angelo Mathews is one talented player who has been at it for more than a decade.
An excellent cricketing mind, Mathews used to be one of the best all-rounders in the ODI circuit thanks to his more-than-handy medium pace bowling, brilliance on the field and exceptional batting.
The former Sri Lankan skipper does not have the burden of being one, and this could benefit his team as it might set Mathews free on his own.
The middle-order batsman boasts of 5381 runs from 204 matches, with an average of 42.04 coupled with a good strike rate of 83.30.
This battle has the potential of being the blockbuster kind, and we feel that Boult might have a slight edge on the Sophia Gardens pitch in Cardiff, coming fresh off a masterful display against the mighty Indians.
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Considering the team chemistry and form of the Kiwis pitted against the uncertainty that clouds the Lankan team, one would only anticipate a New Zealand win by all means.
But Sri Lanka are consistent performers in the World Cup, and can not be ruled out outrightly.
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