SL may have last say

Handling spinners big challenge for New Zealand

Their surprising win over South Africa has propelled them into a match against the formidable Sri Lankans who are hot favourites to reach the final. It is not surprising to see three Asian teams reach the semis -- they have simply performed better than other teams in sub-continental conditions and they have the players better suited to those conditions.

There is no denying the Black Caps are up against it in this semifinal and they may well exit the tournament as they have done on five previous occasions at that stage of the tournament, but it goes to show that the form book and rankings account for very little in one-off matches where there is real pressure to perform on the day. You just need to ask South Africa and Australia about that!

Sri Lanka will be expecting to win – they won the Group match against New Zealand convincingly in Mumbai and the home pitch advantage and a fully packed noisy crowd in Colombo could be the difference in motivating them to succeed. There is no doubt they are the better team with batsmen and bowlers in form -- their players complement each other with great skill sets in all departments of the game.

The Black Caps will know that if they bat first, a score of around 220-230 will not be good enough -- England struggled to reach that score and could not defend it to lose by 10 wickets to Sri Lanka. What will comfort the Black Caps is that if they do bat first and score 221 (as they did against South Africa) they will still show some fighting spirit and never give up.

For New Zealand to win, they will have a simple game plan when batting but it has not always worked especially against the top rated teams. All too often we are 20-2 and the innings has to be rebuilt and this takes time. John Wright, the coach is a crafty and experienced man. Words of encouragement w7ill help but the players need to understand that for some of them it could be their last chance of playing in a World Cup and it is now time to perform at the highest level with millions of people watching.

Wrighty has already mentioned that he wants his batsmen to read the game and after 35 overs have 7 wickets in hand to push for a large total. Anything can happen with wickets in hand. The big problem for the batsmen is that they will be facing a menacing spin attack which is very skilful and difficult to read -- their variation is clever and tricky to adapt to.

Sri Lanka have a lot of in-form players and century makers in Dilshan (2), Tharanga (2), Sangakkara and Jayawarena (one each). The Black Cap bowlers need to be able to deny them their big scores with accurate bowling and sensational fielding. For New Zealand, Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor have one century each although Ryder is finding form and Guptill is good enough to make his mark.

Watch out for Jacob Oram’s batting -- he is due to explode -- it has been a long time since he has made an impact with the bat.  Tim Southee is the leading wicket taker for both teams with 15 wickets -- he is a much improved bowler but somehow Malinga, Muralitharan, Mendis and Herath may have the last say in this match.

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