New Zealand seek last semi-final berth; Sri Lanka’s train heading towards the Champions Trophy

Sri Lanka

Big picture: All to play for

And so it comes down to this. After a month of non-stop cricket – 40 matches leading up to this one, to be precise – there’s a very good chance that it will be the weather in Bengaluru which might end up deciding which team takes up not just the last semi-final berth in this World Cup, but also the final Champions Trophy 2025 qualification spot. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let us first take a quick look back at how we got here.

If you’re New Zealand, you could be forgiven for scratching your head a little at your present predicament. After four wins from your first four games, and then two scores of 383 and 401 in two of your next four, you surely ought to have nailed down that top-four spot, right? Surely?!

Well, not if that 383 came in an agonisingly close losing chase against Australia, and that 401 preceded some classic Pakistan shenanigans courtesy Fakhar Zaman, who wasn’t even in the starting XI at the beginning of this tournament.

But New Zealand’s fate is largely in their own hands. A win against Sri Lanka, and they move to ten points to almost certainly lock that fourth semi-final slot. The only caveat – Pakistan will be playing two days later, knowing precisely what they need to do against England to trump New Zealand’s net run rate (NRR). Afghanistan too could get to ten points, but their NRR is so dire that it’s all but mathematically impossible to leapfrog the sides above them.

The margin of that loss also left them in eighth place – the cut-off point for qualification to the next Champions Trophy – with only NRR keeping them above Netherlands on ninth. Bangladesh are tied with them on points – four each – but are seventh due to a superior NRR. The only scenario that would see Sri Lanka eliminated is if two other teams reach six points, and they themselves fail to do so. There are several ways in which this could happen, but we won’t get into that here.

Which brings us to the rain, something that would be considerably more disastrous for New Zealand than their opponents because they need the full two points. Anything less than that and Pakistan, Afghanistan or both could surpass them in the race for the semi-finals.

A washout may work in Sri Lanka’s favour but if Netherlands beat England on Wednesday then an abandoned game would see Sri Lanka needing Australia to beat Bangladesh; anything else would see Sri Lanka, along with England, miss out on qualification for Champions Trophy 2025.

As for the actual head-to-head between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, it’s been all one-way traffic in recent times. Sri Lanka’s last ODI victory against New Zealand came back in 2015.

Recent form

New Zealand LLLLW (Last five completed ODIs; most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLLWW

In the spotlight: Rachin Ravindra and Kusal Mendis

Rachin Ravindra has 523 runs this World Cup. He hadn’t played a single game of ODI cricket when the year began but he is now the third-highest run-scorer in the tournament. Heading into the World Cup, all of Ravindra’s first eight ODI innings came at either No. 6 or 7. But from the moment he hit a hundred to kick things off last month, he earned himself a place in that New Zealand top order and has never looked back. Of batters to have played as many games as him in the World Cup, only Virat Kohl’s ludicrous average of 108.60 trumps Ravindra’s 74.71. And one last fact, his only ODI innings against Sri Lanka saw him score 49 from 52 balls, in what was his ODI debut.

Of all the mid-tournament revelations in all the World Cups. In ordinary circumstances, having been pushed out of semi-final contention, this Sri Lanka side might have been looking forward to the creature comforts of home. Here, however, they still need a win, and more importantly inspiration. Enter Kusal Mendis, the man named captain two games into this tournament, two games in which he was a whirlwind of unadulterated intent. His seven innings prior to taking up the mantle had seen him rack up six scores of fifty or more, including a 77-ball 126 against Pakistan. Since then though his form has fallen of the proverbial cliff; he has averaged 15 at a strike rate of 68.18. Sri Lanka badly need Mendis to rediscover his mojo.

Team news: Ferguson and Jamieson both to play?

For New Zealand, Matt Henry has been ruled out of the World Cup. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s weakness against short-pitched bowling might see the inclusion of one or both of Kyle Jamieson and Lockie Ferguson.

New Zealand (probable): 1 Devon Conway, 2 Rachin Ravindra, 3 Kane Williamson (capt.), 4 Daryl Mitchell, 5 Tom Latham (wk), 6 Glenn Phillips, 7 Mark Chapman, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Ish Sodhi/Kyle Jamieson, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Tim Southee/Lockie Ferguson

Sri Lanka don’t have any fresh injury concerns and are likely to stick with the same side which lost to Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Pathum Nissanka, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Kusal Mendis (capt, wk) 4 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 5 Charith Asalanka, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Dhananjaya de Silva, 8 Maheesh Theekshana, 9 Kasun Rajitha, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Dilshan Madushanka

Pitch and conditions: Runs or rain?

New Zealand as whole might not have fond memories of the Chinnaswamy stadium, but their batters might, having plundered 401 against Pakistan. Sri Lanka too will remember fondly their win against England here. Now if only the rain will keep away.

Stats and trivia: A one-sided contest

  • Rachin Ravindra is currently tied with Sachin Tendulkar for most runs at a World Cup before turning 25. He can go free and clear of an all-time great tomorrow.
  • Dilshan Madushanka is seven wickets away from becoming the all-time highest wicket-taker in a single edition of a World Cup.
  • Sri Lanka have won just three of their last 20 ODIs against New Zealand; they’ve lost seven of their last eight, with one game abandoned.
  • Two of the three games at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in this World Cup have seen the side batting first score above 350, with only England – against Sri Lanka – failing to do so.

Quotes

“We knew the talent was there, but to come out be one of the players of the tournament so far – not only with the bat, but he’s also making really valuable contributions with the ball. Yeah, very, very special player, and great that he’s on our side.”
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson sings praises for young Rachin Ravindra

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