World Cup Opener From a Sri Lankan Perspective

The first game of the World Cup would see Sri Lanka taking on co-hosts New Zealand on Saturday at the Hagley Oval.
From Sri Lanka’s perspective, the biggest positive is the return of Malinga. He will add the desperately needed firepower to the bowling attack, but it would be interesting to see how he goes given his long injury layoff. His impressive record is even better against the New Zealanders, which should give him more confidence, and from his comments, he seems to be up for the challenge.  It was reported (Cricinfo) that in the warm-up games, Malinga’s pace was down, although he did get his world-renowned yorkers in quite regularly.
Team Composition
Dilshan and Thirimanne are expected to open the batting, with the dynamic duo to follow. Captain Mathews will add more stability and firepower to the middle order, which was missing during the New Zealand series due to his injury and illness. Chandimal and Perera should fill the number 6 and 7 positions respectively.
The bowling attack is likely to comprise of three seamers – Malinga, Kulesekara & Lakmal – and the sole spinner, Herath. However, Lakmal went for plenty during the warm-up games, and this may result in the youngster Chameera getting a game, which may be a risky move given the fact that the bowler arrived in the country only a few days ago.
Sri Lanka’a aim when batting would be to get through the first 10 overs unscathed while scoring around 40 runs. This could give them a good platform to launch from. The New Zealand series showed us that the loss of wickets in the first 10-15 overs was what prevented us from getting a good score.
In the event that a large total needs to be chased down, Mahela could open the batting with Dilshan to get a quick start and Thirimanne could drop down to number 4.
We would ideally want to bat first and then control the middle overs of the New Zealand innings, which the Lankans are well known for. However, this would depend a lot on the wicket and overhead conditions.
Sri Lanka’s Biggest Worry would be McCullum. The New Zealand captain has been in the form of his life, and if he gets going, the Lankans are going to be in a lot of trouble.  Nevertheless, concentrating only on getting McCullum out is another mistake the attack may make, as this would then allow players such as Williamson and Guptil to settle down and attack later on in the innings.
Past Few Games
New Zealand won the recently concluded series quite comfortably in the end. However, Sri Lanka had New Zealand in trouble during most of the matches and, as Mathews stated, we found ways to lose these games instead of winning them. I would put that down to the lack of a strike bowler. Part-timers were used to get through a few quick overs after having New Zealand 5 down, and this was mainly due to the fear of using up the frontline bowlers before the last 10 overs. However, with Malinga coming back this problem has been solved to an extent, at least on paper.
A win for Sri Lanka, even though the odds are against them. We have a tendency to go unnoticed until the knockout phases and this could be exactly what happens in this World Cup as well.

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