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Sunday, 27 September 2009

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Cricket fever is at its best with the ICC Champions Trophy tournament reaching its peak after the first half of the preliminary round matches.

Out of the12 first round matches, six have already been completed. The semi finalists would be known after the next six first round matches of the eight-nation tournament to be played from today.

Having met the hosts South Africa and England in the first two games, Sri Lanka will take on New Zealand in their last Group ‘B’ semi league round match to be played under lights at SuperSport Park, Centurion today.

When the two teams last met at a one day international during the recent Compaq Cup Triangular tournament in Colombo, Sri Lanka beat New Zealand by 97 runs in a flood-lit affair at Premadasa Stadium. The defeat deprived New Zealand of a chance in the Compaq Cup final.

The Lankan win over the Kiwis was even more creditable, considering the fact that the home team, which emerged runners up at the last Twenty20 World Cup, were comprehensively beaten 2-0 by New Zealand in the two-match Twenty20 series.

But the same could not be expected today as the Kiwis would be playing under conditions familiar to them. New Zealand’s fast bowlers could look dangerous today and the Lankans will have a tough time if they happen to bat under lights. Sri Lanka has beaten New Zealand four times in their last five ODI meetings with the other being a no result.Today’s meeting between the two teams in South Africa will be the 70th ODI between the two countries. Of the 69 matches played so far, Sri Lanka has won 31 and lost 34 with three no results and one tie.

New Zealand thrashed Sri Lanka by nine wickets in the first ever ODI between the two countries, which incidentally was a 1979 World Cup match in Nottingham. In reply to Sri Lanka’s 189 all out, New Zealand reached the target for the loss of one wicket with Glen Turner (83) and Geoff Howarth (63) sharing an unfinished second wicket partnership of 126 runs. Having lost their first five ODI meetings, Sri Lanka’s maiden ODI victory over New Zealand – by three wickets, was registered in Derby during the 1983 World Cup in England. Sri Lanka’s current Chairman of Selectors was adjudged man of the match for his devastating spell of 5 for 32.

Will Thilan Samaraweera be able to continue from where he left with that speaking century? Only time would tell us by later tonight.

- Dinesh

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