Despite finding out the morning before their first match that Gautam Gambhir had aggravated a groin injury and would take no part in the series, India's captain MS Dhoni was confident of the side's chances. He has reason to be.
This is India's third one-day series in Sri Lanka over the last 13 months. Where for decades India's record here had been nothing to crow over - they arrived for a tri-series in 2005 having won just nine of 33 matches - a strong one-day outfit has turned that record around dramatically.They have won seven of ten matches since then and in their last two series proved the past now counts for little, beating Sri Lanka 3-2 last August and 4-1 in February. In terms of rankings, there's plenty at stake for India in this series - if they go unbeaten into the final and win there, they will climb to No. 1 in the ICC's ODI rankings for the first time.
India strutted their stuff at the two practice sessions they had since arriving two days after the tournament began, and look confident. There were no traces of rust in how their batsmen and bowlers applied themselves. On the whole, the manner of their preparation has been calm and self-assured even though Virender Sehwag, a critical cog in the batting line-up, is missing. Plenty of responsibility will be on Rahul Dravid, recalled to the one-day team after two years. India's middle order has been shaky against fast, short-pitched bowling and if a wicket goes down early, expect Dravid to walk out first.
To beat a confident Indian outfit, New Zealand will have to shape up in disciplines that let them down in the first game. Their batting was rocked by a superb display from three bowlers of varying speeds and trajectories - Ian Bishop called it one of the best one-day efforts under lights he had seen - but the application was perhaps to blame. The top order seemed intent on attacking from the start. In the field, New Zealand failed to finish the job when Sri Lanka were 69 for 5 in 25.3 overs, and also gave them leeway with singles and doubles in the field. That was surprising given how efficient they were in the Twenty20s. A defeat tomorrow will see them crash out of the short tournament.
(last five matches, most recent first)
New Zealand LWLLNR
Watch out for...Ashish Nehra's return to Sri Lanka. In 17 matches here, he has taken 25 wickets at 26.36 with a best of 6 for 59 in his last outing here. That match happened to be at the R Premadasa Stadium. A recall to the side after a stellar IPL in South Africa was followed up by a good showing in the West Indies. If he gets the chance to bowl under lights at the Premadasa this time, with the assistance it provides to swing, Nehra could add to his impressive tally in the country.
Jesse Ryder should take a look at this Indian team and say to himself, 'Right, let's get some runs here'. Ryder was in top form when India toured New Zealand earlier this year, and set the tone for a personally excellent series in the one-day leg. He scored a sublime hundred in Christchurch and then took three wickets and scored a half-century in the last game, smashing India's attack all around Eden Park. Conditions are obviously a lot different and hitting sixes at the Premadasa will be a difficult proposition, but Ryder may just decide to raise his game against this outfit.
Dinesh Karthik has been confirmed as the man to open the innings in Gambhir's absence, at least for this game. Dravid will bat at either of Nos 3 or 4. Dhoni said it was rare that India went in to a match with five specialist bowlers, and indicated that it would be a 3-1 combination, which means Harbhajan Singh will be the only spinner. Ishant Sharma, Nehra, Praveen Kumar and RP Singh will contest the fast-bowlers' slots, but it is likely RP will be the one to miss out. Abhishek Nayar will have to wait to get his chance.
India: (probable) 1 Dinesh Karthik, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Ashish Nehra.
It's not been confirmed whether Kyle Mills, who was under the weather before the last game, will fit in this time. Daryl Tuffey stepped up admirably in Mills' absence, and Ian Butler's poor bowling in the batting Powerplay during the last match may see him sit out for Mills. The batting will remain the same.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Brendon McCullum (wk), 2 Jesse Ryder, 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Jacob Oram, 6 Grant Elliot, 7 Daniel Vettori (capt), 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Ian Butler/Kyle Mills, 10 Daryl Tuffey, 11 Shane Bond.
Pitch and conditionsIn the last match the pitch was two-faced and not an ideal one for one-dayers. It remains to be seen what is rolled out for Friday's encounter. As usual, scattered showers are forecast but fans will hope the rain stays away, as it did on Tuesday.
Stats and Trivia
Quotes"It is good to have him in the team. With that sort of experience, he is always going to help the team. It is wonderful to have him back in the squad."
India's coach Gary Kirsten is excited about Dravid's return
"New Zealand really missed him when he was in the ICL. He's their spearhead and the fast bowling goes to a new level with Bond."
Dhoni knows New Zealand's confidence will be up with the return of Shane Bond