Mumbai: Sri Lanka may exploit a pitch used three days earlier and employ three specialist spinners for the second match in a row in Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in Colombo.
To New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori’s consternation, the match will be played on the pitch used in last Saturday’s quarter-final against England.
“They told us we are playing on the same one as England which is very surprising for us,” Vettori told a news conference on Monday. “We would have thought it is mandatory to prepare a fresh wicket, but obviously not.”
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara said pace bowler Nuwan Kulasekara, who did not play against England, had performed well against New Zealand.
“Playing three spinners is a question we have to ask ourselves today. Nuwan Kulasekara has done exceptionally well against New Zealand every single time he has gone out there so he is a strong contender to play,” he said.
“But the role of spinners seems to overshadow the role of pacers due to the matches being played in pitches where a lot of matches have been already played.”
New Zealand have a good overall one-day record against Sri Lanka, due primarily to their home matches where green pitches and cool weather provide alien conditions for Asian teams.
The reverse will apply on Tuesday with heat, stifling humidity and a low, slow pitch.
To compound New Zealand’s difficulties, Sri Lanka have the best-balanced attack in the tournament with Lasith Malinga’s fast, slingy yorkers supplementing the spin attack.
Sri Lanka will decide in the morning whether or not to play Muttiah Muralitharan, who is suffering from knee and quadricep problems.
Sangakkara said there no question of resting Muralitharan in anticipation of a final in Mumbai on Saturday between the winners of Wednesday’s clash between India and Pakistan.
But he said Sri Lanka still had plenty of spinning options if Muralitharan, who will retire from international cricket after the tournament, was not available.
New Zealand will need everything to go in their favour if they are to become the first team from their nation to advance to the final in six attempts.
Their bowling is usually disciplined, if not especially penetrative, and the fielding was exceptional in the quarter-final win over South Africa,
Vettori’s main concern is his team’s inconsistency.
“We need quickly to switch off from South Africa, it’s obviously a tremendous result for us but Sri Lanka is a different prospect so we need a different game plan and a bigger game plan if we want to succeed here,” he said.
“We have been so up and down with our performances. When we have won well, we backed it up with a poor performance.”
“So, that has been the majority of talk within the team that we can’t afford to be up and down in the knockout stages. We have had our up performance and we have to make sure we have another one in the bag because we know how strong Sri Lanka can be in their home conditions.”