Amit Kumar

The R Premadasa Stadium of Colombo, with capacity of 35, 000 fans, is all set to witness the first World Cup semi-final battle between New Zealand and Sri Lanka on Tuesday. The two countries have tightened their belts and are in a ‘get set go’ enthuse for their final berth.

The thrilling battle for World Cup begins right here. Whosoever will win on Tuesday will counter the winner of second semi-final between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, in final.

Both heated teams are eyeing to register their win remarkably at the 35,000 capacity ground in Colombo.

Black Caps have played six games in the tournament so far—won four and lost two, whereas Lankans have got better statistics as they have also played six matches out of which they won four, lost just one and one was abandoned due to rain.

This is New Zealand's sixth World Cup semi-final in 10 tournaments and they are yet to win one.

Sri Lankans will be playing in their home ground and so will have a better edge to make the deal. They are tough to beat at home. In 180 ODIs played in Sri Lanka, the home side have won 113, lost 51 with 16 no results, which equates to winning 68.9 percent of completed matches.

Let’s have a look on the previous World Cup records between these two fighters:

Black Caps have played in five semi-finals in nine previous World Cups and lost every time:

In 1975 West Indies won by five wickets.

In 1979 England won by nine runs.

In 1992 Pakistan won by four wickets.

In 1999 Pakistan won by nine wickets.

In 2007 Sri Lanka won by 81 runs.

Whereas, Sri Lanka have reached semifinals on three occasions:

In 1996 they won against India.

In 2003 Australia won by 48 runs (D/L).

In 2007 Sri Lanka won by 81 runs against New Zealand. The former batted first at Kingston scoring 289-5, with Mahela Jayawardene making an unbeaten 115 and helping to add 102 off the last ten overs. Kiwis were bowled out for 208, with legend Muralitharan taking 4-31.

Head to head

ODIs: New Zealand and Sri Lanka have countered each other in 73 One Day Internationals so far, out of which Kiwis registered win in 35 matches and Lankans bagged 33, whereas one resulted in tie and four in NR.

In Sri Lanka: Played 19; NZ 5, Sri Lanka 12, NR 2

In World Cup matches: Played 8; NZ 3, Sri Lanka 5.

New Zealand have not beaten Sri Lanka in a World Cup match since 1992 in Hamilton.

In Colombo: Played 7; NZ 1, Sri Lanka 5, NR 1.

Pitch Report: R Premadasa’s pitch is considered to be batting friendly, therefore, toss will be the deciding factor. If any of the captains win the toss then he should opt to bat and set a healthy total for rivals. Spinners will get a good turn on the pitch.

Star players to watch: Tim Southee is the leading wicket-taker for New Zealand in this World Cup with 15 wickets at 17, so skipper Daniel Vettori will be expecting an expressive game from him at Colombo. 

Southee’s last week's quarterfinal performance against South Africa was incredible and lauded by skipper as well. He dismissed the devastating Jacques Kallis for 47.

Batsmen Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor, who have the ability to give strength to team’s total will be the key batsmen for the team. 

McCullum brothers—Brandon McCullum and Nathan McCullum—have played an impressive game throughout the tournament, so their team will be looking for the same rhythm from the duo.

Junior McCullum’s three wickets and the star Jacob Oram’s thrilling four wickets performance which helped Black Caps to dump South Africans in the quarterfinals has to be repeated against Lankans.

Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan might be playing his last World Cup. So, he will be desperate to play superbly in front of an adoring home crowd. His international tally stands at 1345 wickets at 22.84 from 493 matches. He has taken more wickets at Premadasa than at any other ground in Sri Lanka with 73 wickets at 26.47 from 56 games. So he will be the main soldier for Lankan troops.

The dangerous Tilakrattne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga who registered a thrilling victory over England with their unbeaten centuries, will be the main supports for Lankans.

Not to forget the other three ‘M’ factors—Mendis, Mallinga, and Mathews who will be crucial for the team at their home ground Colombo.

Skipper Kumar Sangakkara needs 111 runs and Jayawardene needs 129 for completing their 1,000 runs in the World Cup. Whoever gets there first will be the third Sri Lankan and 14th batsman in world cricket to do so. Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva being the other two Sri Lankans to have crossed the 1,000 runs mark.

Muralitharan needs six wickets to overtake Glenn McGrath's record of 71 wickets in World Cups from 39 games. Murali currently has 66 wickets at 19 from 38 matches.

Teams from:

Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (capt/wk), Mahela Jayawardene (vice capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Chamara Kapugedera, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath.

New Zealand:  Daniel Vettori (capt), Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum (wk), Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock.