New Zealand, once sailing smoothly with four consecutive victories, find themselves in a precarious situation after losing four matches in a row. Their semi-final hopes are now hanging by a thread and a must-win game against Sri Lanka in Bangalore.
To secure a spot in the semi-finals, New Zealand needs to win and rely on other results, hoping that neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan wins their remaining matches by a substantial margin.
However, rain and the possibility of a washout in New Zealand’s last game add another layer of uncertainty to their situation.
The Kiwis have no one to blame but themselves for this situation. Their strong start in the tournament was overshadowed by their recent poor performance, particularly in the bowling department.
Injuries to key bowlers like Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry have further complicated matters. However, they are banking on a better showing against Sri Lanka.
If Ferguson remains unfit, New Zealand might turn to the towering fast bowler Kyle Jamieson, who could trouble the Sri Lankan batters with his pace and bounce.
Trent Boult, a world-class bowler, will play a key role in getting early wickets. Although he went wicketless and conceded 50 runs in the match against Pakistan, Boult is expected to bounce back.
Tim Southee and Mitchell Santner, who performed well in the last game, will aim to replicate their success.
Kane Williamson’s return to form, demonstrated by his classy 95 off 79 balls in the last match, is a positive sign for New Zealand. In addition, Rachin Ravindra’s exceptional form has made him one of the top run-scorers in the tournament, accumulating 523 runs at an average of 74.71 and a strike rate of 107.
Glenn Phillips has shown improvement in the recent games and has been striking the ball well. If the match is shortened, New Zealand might promote him up the order to provide quick runs.
For Sri Lanka, the semi-final race is over, but they still have a shot at finishing inside the top seven in the World Cup standings.
This would grant them qualification for the ICC Champions Trophy 2025 alongside host Pakistan. Currently, in eighth place, a win against New Zealand could potentially move them up to the top seven.
Sri Lanka’s recent performance has been lackluster, suffering a humiliating 302-run defeat against India and another loss to Bangladesh. Captain Kusal Mendis needs to regain his early tournament form and lead from the front.
Sadeera Samarawickrama is the top run-scorer for Sri Lanka in this World Cup, amassing 372 runs in eight innings with an average of 62. He is expected to perform well on the batting-friendly Bangalore pitch.
Among the bowlers, Dilshan Madushanka has been a standout performer, leading the wicket charts with 21 scalps at an average of 22.23. However, the other bowlers have struggled to provide adequate support, consistently leaking runs.
Against New Zealand on a batting paradise, bowlers like Kasun Rajitha, Dushmantha Chameera, and Maheesh Theekshana will need to maintain disciplined lines to avoid being taken to the cleaners.
NZ vs SL Probable XI
New Zealand: Devon Conway, Rachin Ravindra, Kane Williamson (c), Daryl Mitchell, Tom Latham (wk), Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi/ Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult
Sri Lanka: Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis (c & wk), Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Maheesh Theekshana, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha, Dilshan Madushanka