Colombo. March 29: When they takes the field against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, New Zealand will be playing in their 5th semi-final in World Cup cricket. The Kiwis have thus far never got past this stage to make it to a final. And the odds of them breaking this jinx don't look very bright now either as they play a formidable Sri Lanka in the latter's own back yard.
Former Indian opener Navjot Singh Sidhu feels it will be a spin versus pace attack. It will be Tim Southee and Jacobh Oram with 14 wickets a piece for their side against Muttiah Muralitharan's 13 scalps. However, on Sri Lanka's dead wickets, the spinners might just prevail on account of the slowness of the strips. "With the pitch shorn of any grass, the Lankans have a definite advantage, " rightly opines Sidhu.
However, Tom Moody begs to differ, saying that the Black Caps are no dead beats when it comes to spin. He points to the fact that captain Daniel Vettori has years of off-spin under his belt, while Nathan McCullum who stunned South Africa in the shock quarterfinal when he picked up 3/24, may just have more tricks up his sleeve.
On the question of whether Lanka will play two spinners of three, former Sri Lankan batsman Russell Arnold feels that with Murali as the constant, off-break Ajantha Mendies will be retained in the side over his spin twin Rangana Herath due a strong performance in the last game against New Zealand where he took 2/24 in 6 overs.
"I would like to see the combination of Murali and Ranagan Herath keep going, " says Arnold. "But the theory in the team is that Ajantha Mendis does well against the more western teams than with the subcontinent teams."
Meanwhile, commentator and sports show anchor Harsha Bogle thinks Malinga doesn't quite look like a threat to the Kiwis due to a wishy-washy showing in the Cup so far. "Malinga has been hot and cold," says a pensive Bogle. "He's had one good performance, one not so good. He hasn't played all that much. So one is uncertain what he can do."
But Arnold has a counter-argument saying that when the stakes are high and the chips are down, Malinga will deliver. "Malinga is a big game player and when he picks the right moments, players like him put in the big performances. He and Murali will always be players Kumar Sangakkara will turn to, " says Arnold.
So, one will have to see which side an unresponsive pitch as Colombo will favour when Sri Lanka plays New Zealand on Tuesday in what promises to be a ripper of a match.