ICC World Cup 2023, NZ vs SL | Five Player Battles to Watch Out For

image-loq9jj32Angelo Mathews against Bangladesh in World Cup 2023 (AP Photos)

Australia clinched a spot in the semifinals through a remarkable victory over Afghanistan on Tuesday, intensifying the battle for the coveted fourth place, the only spot left. New Zealand currently leads the race, with the opportunity to solidify their position by defeating Sri Lanka at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. A victory would grant them a two-point lead over their rivals, Pakistan and Afghanistan, along with a superior net run rate.

However, a looming rain threat and the possibility of New Zealand's last game being washed out cast a shadow over their prospects. In such an event, they would be left with just 9 points, relying on Pakistan and Afghanistan losing their remaining matches to remain at 8 points.

New Zealand's rollercoaster journey has led them to this critical juncture. After a promising start with four consecutive wins, they faced four consecutive losses, including a DLS method defeat to Pakistan despite posting a massive 401 runs. Their bowling performance suffered due to injuries to key bowlers like Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry. If Ferguson remains unfit, New Zealand might turn to the tall and promising fast bowler, Kyle Jamieson, to challenge the Sri Lankan batters.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka has had a mixed campaign in the tournament. Victories over England and the Netherlands were offset by losses to Afghanistan, India, and Bangladesh. While they won't reach the 2023 Cricket World Cup semi-finals, they have a chance to qualify for the next Champions Trophy by finishing among the top seven teams in India. Injuries to key players like Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Matheesha Pathirana and Lahiru Kumara have exposed the limitations in Sri Lanka's squad depth. Additionally, external pressures from their sports ministry and board have added to their challenges.

For New Zealand, the focus is solely on securing qualification, while Sri Lanka is playing for pride. The outcome of the game may hinge on the key player battles listed below:

Devon Conway vs Dilshan Madushanka

image-lopwnaslDilshan Madushanka. (X.com)

Devon Conway had set high expectations after his impressive 150 against England in the tournament's opening game. However, he struggled to deliver significant scores thereafter. Conway is eager to break his streak of poor performances, and Bengaluru presents an ideal opportunity for him to do so. To post a substantial innings, he must first navigate the challenging first ten overs, where he will face an in-form Dilshan Madushanka. Madushanka, a left-arm seamer, has been the leading wicket-taker for his team and possesses the ability to take early wickets, making this contest a mouth-watering one.

Kusal Perera vs Tim Southee

image-lopwoqqyTim Southee. (AP)

Tim Southee, after missing most of the games in the tournament's first half, demonstrated his class in the recent match against Pakistan. He was economical and also dismissed the Pakistani opener when other bowlers struggled. In the upcoming game, he will confront Kusal Perera, who is currently lacking confidence, particularly against the new ball. Perera's struggles with early deliveries were evident in his previous match at the same venue, where he fell cheaply to David Willey during the powerplay. Southee will aim to dismiss Perera swiftly, as his ability to score big makes him a potential threat.

Kane Williamson vs Dushmantha Chameera

image-lopwq5bmKane Williamson. (PTI)

A positive development for New Zealand in their previous match was the return of captain Kane Williamson. He immediately left a mark with a classy 95 off just 79 balls. Williamson is a renowned class player and a tough opponent to dismiss early in his innings. To challenge him, Sri Lanka may turn to Dushmantha Chameera, a right-arm seamer who offers a different dimension to their attack. Chameera's tall frame and higher pace could potentially trouble Williamson and provide an interesting battle on the field.

Sadeera Samarawickrama vs Mitchell Santner

image-lopwriw8Sadeera Samarawickrama. (AFP)

Sadeera Samarawickrama has emerged as a standout batter for his team in the World Cup, amassing 372 runs in 8 innings at an impressive average of 62. He excels in facing spin bowling. Mitchell Santner, on the other hand, has consistently lived up to his potential in the tournament. Santner thrives on challenges, and Samarawickrama is likely to pose a significant one, particularly on the Chinnaswamy wicket, where bowlers typically find minimal assistance.

Pathum Nissanka vs Trent Boult

image-lopwtzf5Trent Boult. (AP)

Despite his recent struggles with the ball, Trent Boult cannot be discounted, especially in the first powerplay when he wields the new ball. The left-arm seamer specializes in unsettling right-handed batters with his swinging deliveries. This sets the stage for an intriguing battle with Pathum Nissanka, who has been in excellent form. Nissanka will seek to assert his dominance against Boult, making their clash a focal point in the upcoming game.