Battle of the batters

Group A Match:New Zealand vs Sri Lanka

While the Sri Lankan players returned to the dressing room after sweating it out for nearly two hours at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday, one man was not quite done. Even as his mates chose to escape the sweltering heat, skipper Kumar Sangakkara decided to have a 45-minute long knocking session with coach Trevor Bayliss. Sri Lanka may have qualified for the quarterfinals, but Sanga knows the importance of his side’s day-night encounter against New Zealand on Friday. Momentum is what he is looking for and the performance in the league stage doesn’t quite top his priority list. As far as the Lankan skipper is concerned, it’s the knock-out games that really count.

“Every side likes to build momentum. It is important to carry to that momentum into the next stage. At the same time, the side might not win its last league stage encounter, but there’s nothing to worry. It’s the quarters, semis and the big final that really count,” Sangakkara said. A win on Friday will take New Zealand (8 points) to the top of Group A, but Australia (9) will have to lose to Pakistan if the Kiwis are to finish as table-toppers. And given that both teams are evenly matched, a cracker is certainly on the cards. The Lankans, though, hold a slight edge thanks mainly to their superior bowling attack.

Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan can be a handful on any pitch in the world. The Black Caps will truly miss the presence of their inspiring skipper, Daniel Vettori and seamer Kyle Mills, both of who are out injured. Friday’s contest will, however, be dominated by batsmen. Four days ago, New Zealand had posted a enormous 358 runs against minnows Canada. Brendon McCullum’s century and Ross Taylor’s sixer-studded 74 thrilled the Sunday crowd.Sri Lanka and New Zealand have tasted defeat only once in this tournament. While Sanga & Co ran into an inspired Shahid Afridi in Colombo, the Kiwis were done in by Australia’s pace trio in Nagpur.


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