CWC'19: Key players to watch out in NZ-SL clash

Last Updated: Fri, Jun 07, 2019 00:27 hrs

[India], Jun 1 (ANI): After two thrilling ICC Men's Cricket World Cup matches, the day three is set to witness a clash between settled New Zealand and ragtag Sri Lanka at the Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.

New Zealand, known as BlackCaps, are considered dark horse along with the West Indies in the 50-over tournament. Australian legends like Mark Waugh and Brett Lee picked up the Kiwis, the 2015 World Cup runners-up, as the fourth team to enter the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup.

The Kiwis heavily rely on their top-order including Martin Guptill, captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, and pace bowlers Trent Boult, Jimmy Neesham and Tim Southee to pose threat on their opponents.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have lifted the trophy once -- 1996 World Cup when they defeated Australia. The team since then twice finished as runners-up in 2007 and 2011 edition after losing to Australia and India, respectively. The team has won only six of the 22 ODIs since January 2018.

The Sri Lankan board announced a surprising squad led by Dimuth Karunaratne. The team has experienced players like Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews and Kusal Perera. However, Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dinesh Chandimal, Upul Tharanga and Akila Dananjaya have been overlooked.

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Guptill was the architect behind New Zealand's best-ever World Cup campaign in 2015, guiding the team to its maiden tournament final which they eventually lost to Australia by seven wickets. The New Zealand opener topped the tournament charts with 547 runs at an average of 68.37 and scored unbeaten 237, the highest individual score at the World Cup, in the quarter-finals against West Indies. Guptill registered three centuries, 138 against Sri Lanka, and 117 not out and 118 against Bangladesh earlier this year.

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One of the best pacers in the world, the 35-year-old Malinga is the master of slow ball, which helps him the go-to wicket-taker. During the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) final, the Sri Lankan pacer unleashed the delivery on the last ball which helped Mumbai Indians secure a one-run victory over Chennai Super Kings. This year, Malinga has so far collected 11 wickets, including a three-for against New Zealand. Playing in his last World Cup, Malinga will be the crucial player for Sri Lanka.

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Williamson has become a guiding force of his team lately. The in-form New Zealand captain scored two fifties against Sri Lanka and one half-century each against India and Bangladesh this year. Having a mixed stint in the recent Indian Premier League (IPL), Williamson smashed an unbeaten 70 off 43 balls for Sunrisers Hyderabad. In the two World Cup warm-up matches, Williamson hit well-compiled 67 to beat India and scored 85 runs against West Indies in the second practice game.

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Former Sri Lanka captain Mathews led Sri Lanka in the 2015 edition. He was in and out of the squad last year due to fitness and form. Mathews has, however, overcome his challenges as he scored 64 in his team's first World Cup warm-up against South Africa. With a robust experience under his belt, he will pass on his expertise to Karunaratne.

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Taylor is set to become the seventh Kiwi cricketer to play in his fourth and last World Cup. New Zealand depend mostly on Taylor if their top-order fails to give a good kick-start. The 35-year-old hit 54, 90 and 137 against Sri Lanka early this year. During India tour of New Zealand, Taylor smashed 93 in the third match. The right-hander scored 71 against India in a World Cup warm-up match.

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Karunaratne, who has not played a single ODI since the last World Cup, finds himself leading the team for the premier event. The Sri Lanka captain displayed a promising inning against South Africa in a World Cup warm-up fixture. He scored 87 runs which saw 12 boundaries. Under a lot of pressure and the ragtag attached to Sri Lanka, Karunaratne has to take his team back to its winning days.

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Boult had finished the 2015 edition as the tournament's joint-highest wicket-taker. He has become one of the most successful fast bowlers of New Zealand. Boult has picked up 21 wickets so far this year in bi-lateral series, including a five-for against India, three-wicket haul against both India and Bangladesh. During the World Cup warm-up matches, he returned with four scalps against both India and West Indies in the first and second practice game, respectively. (ANI)