Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sri Lanka vs. New Zealand Key Questions

Can Jacob Oram regain his SLPL form with the ball?
Jacob Oram was clearly the stand-out bowler of the inaugural edition of the Sri Lankan Premier League. Cumulatively Oram snared 9 wickets for 53 runs at a remarkable economy of 3.31 over the whole tournament.

The first group stages of the World Twenty20 haven't quite seen Oram at his best with the ball. His 3 wickets have averaged 26 each at an economy of almost 10 an over. Of course the standard of batsman at the World T20 is much higher, but if Oram can snare some top order Sri Lanka wickets on a pitch that has something for the fast bowlers with the new ball, the Black Caps attack could put a stranglehold on a middle order that hasn't really been tested at the tournament.

Should Sri Lanka select Dananjaya or Herath?
With Ajantha Mendis expected to be sidelined, Sri Lanka will have to make a call between the experience of Rangana Herath or the mystery of the novice, Akhila Dananjaya (Are all new spinners from Sri Lanka supposed to be mystery spinners?).

Outside of Oram and James Franklin, the Kiwis batting order is filled with right-handers. In that context, playing Herath does make a lot of sense, with his left-arm skidding deliveries possibly restricting the big-hitters from opening up. However, if the pitch at Pakellele plays truly as it has throughout the tournament, then McCullum, Taylor and Co could end up hitting Herath out of the attack. Dananjaya is an exciting option, but depending on the nature of the pitch, his mysteries could either be easily picked up, or completely bamboozle the New Zealand batsmen. A tough call for Mahela Jayawardene and the Sri Lankan think tank awaits.

Should Jayawardene open?
Jayawardene lit up the group stages and super eights of the last World t20 with some truly remarkable innings when opening the batting. The remarkable aspect of Jayawardene's innings in t20 cricket is that he can accelerate the strike rate playing in the classical mould. It's almost as if he caresses the ball without the bat making a sound, relying on perfect timing and precision of wrists.

With the much hyped Dilshan Munaweera flattering to deceive, Jayawardene could open the batting along with Tillakaratne Dilshan. If the two stalwarts get the scoreboard ticking in their contrasting styles, Sri Lanka could conceivably bat New Zealand out of the game.

Can Vettori be effective against Sri Lanka's lower middle order?
Daniel Vettori has long been one of the most economical spinners in t20 cricket. However, bowling against Dilshan, Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara in home conditions is a different challenge altogether. The Sri Lankan veterans are unlikely to succumb to spin.

However, if New Zealand do manage to get into the Sri Lankan middle order, Vettori's variations in pace and length, could possibly stifle the power hitting abilities of Jeevan Mendis, Angelo Matthews and Thisara Perera. It could end up being a key tactical battle in the match.

Who will come out on top between Malinga and McCullum/Taylor?
Lasith Malinga will be expected to deliver with the new ball against Brendon McCullum. If Malinga gets early wickets, its unlikely that the Black Caps will have a springboard in the middle overs to launch a big total. If McCullum settles into his groove, then even the best bowling can be inconsequential for the mercurial opener.

Malinga will also be expected to deliver consistent yorkers in the business end of the innings. In these stages he is likely to come up against Ross Taylor. Malinga has generally had Taylor's number in their head-to-head battles in the longer forms of the game. In the shortest form of the game however, a batsman can play with less fear. Taylor's preference to move across the stumps in the death overs can also negate the impact of Malinga's yorkers, unless the paceman alters his line to leg stump, a strategy that is fraught with risk in the closing stages of the innings. An expensive over or a spurt of wickets in the final overs could just be the difference between winning and losing this match.