Lankans to begin Kiwis tour eyeing World Cup

Published: Wednesday, November 29, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Wellington:Sri Lanka's cricketers say their tour of New Zealand starting Thursday launches a 100-day confidence building mission aiming to peak at the cricket World Cup next March in the West Indies.

The immediate target is to get urgently needed match practice after a month of frustrating rain at home.

Their warm-up match against the Otago provincial side starting in Dunedin Thursday will be their only outing before playing New Zealand in two Tests, two Twenty20 matches and five one-dayers.

"To have five one-dayers and a couple of Twenty20 matches against a good one-day side is excellent practice and development for us going forward towards the World Cup," coach Tom Moody said.

"But obviously we've got the first hurdle to cross, which is the Test matches, which we're looking forward to."

New Zealand are third in the world in one-day rankings, ahead of Sri Lanka who are fifth, although the Sri Lankans cruised to a seven-wicket win over the New Zealand Black Caps in the recent Champions Trophy tournament in India.

"So we're coming here feeling comfortable and confident," Moody said.

But he added that foul weather had spoilt the start of the Sri Lankan domestic season, and that consequently the team "haven't had the match practice we'd have liked".

Mahela Jayawardene, who will captain the Test and one-day squads, said the Sri Lankans were expecting pitches offering more bounce and seam in New Zealand than they experienced at home.

"As a team going forward, you have to take challenges ... and perform outside Sri Lanka," he said.

"We've been doing that pretty consistently and hopefully we'll continue to do that."

Sri Lanka has been a side on the rise in recent months, drawing a Test series in England and then thumping the home side 5-0 in subsequent one-dayers.

A 2-0 Test series win at home against South Africa followed, and then an unbeaten march through the qualifying rounds of the Champions Trophy before losses to South Africa and Pakistan saw them miss the semi-finals.

"We want to get a good start here because the World Cup is round the corner and we can take some momentum," Jayawardene said.


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