SL seek end to cycle of losses

Thursday, 29 January 2015 00:51 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

ESPNCricinfo: “Winning breeds confidence,” New Zealand’s batting coach Craig McMillan said ahead of the seventh match against Sri Lanka, and his team has now won eight of their nine most recent matches. Better even than the good results has been the nature of their wins. In the Test in Wellington, and in the ODIs in Christchurch, Nelson and the first match in Dunedin, the hosts have been in losing positions before a staggering comeback upended the run of play. Substantial contributions have come from such a diverse range of personnel, that it has felt like the bus driver could hit a hundred and take four wickets, if only he got the chance. Now they arrive at the dead rubber 4-1 ahead in the series with a chance to trial a new combination, and test the strength of their wider squad. They have already been rotating players during the series, but with two more ODIs against Pakistan scheduled in the next week, it is also a chance for key players to be rested and refreshed. Sri Lanka’s rotation has been of a different kind entirely. They have been on a ferris wheel of despair in New Zealand, taking early wickets then allowing the game to slip, shelling simple catches then watching that batsman grind the attack into the dust, before the younger batsmen’s repeated failures make the seniors’ work redundant. Next match they do it all again. Frustratingly for their fans, the team has not explored many options. Right through the ODIs, Sri Lanka have played only three frontline bowlers, and made the rest of the overs up with their allrounders. Perhaps the prospect of being slammed 5-1 is enough to shock the side into using a new team combination. Captain Angelo Mathews has been unwell with the flu in the approach to this match however and, if he is unavailable for the third game on the trot, Sri Lanka may struggle to balance their side. Ross Taylor said he had never really felt out of form, following his first substantial score of the series in Dunedin, but with him now among the runs, New Zealand’s top order appears more formidable. Taylor’s chance of making another good score on Thursday has risen, with his main tormentor Rangana Herath unavailable for that match due to an illness in his family. Taylor is less likely to be troubled by Sachithra Senanayake, whose stock ball turns into him, opening up the batsman’s favoured leg side. The Sri Lanka selectors have not been enamoured with Thisara Perera’s work ethic at times in the past year, and with a mediocre stretch of returns with both ball and bat in this series, he is now approaching the time when he must again prove his value to the side. Perera is a confidence player however, and it may only take one good turn in either discipline to get his game humming again. Brendon McCullum may have a match off on Thursday, with the hosts perhaps planning to trial Tom Latham in the opening spot. Kane Williamson would lead in his stead. If the pitch is spin-friendly, both Nathan McCullum and Daniel Vettori could play. Adam Milne is again unlikely to be available, but any combination of the remaining fast bowlers may be named. In addition to doubts over Mathews, and Herath’s unavailability, seamer Dhammika Prasad and legspinning allrounder Jeevan Mendis have also sustained niggles. If Prasad cannot play, young quick bowler Dushmantha Chameera might take his place. Suranga Lakmal appears to have recovered sufficiently from a groin strain to be available.