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Sri Lanka v New Zealand ICC Champions Trophy Preview

New Zealand are one of the form sides coming into the ICC Champions Trophy, having beaten both South Africa and England away in the same format this year and yet you wouldn’t think it looking at the betting.

Rated 10/1 joint outsiders to win outright by Coral, the Kiwis are also on offer at a bigger price (evens) than Sri Lanka (4/5) in their first Group A game in Cardiff tomorrow.

Sri Lanka are ranked fifth in the world in 50-over cricket, two places above New Zealand, but, good side though they are, there’s nothing new and exciting about them. Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan all have bags of experience and are brilliant batsmen on their day, but their bowling attack is understandably nothing like as potent now Muttiah Muralitharan has retired.

Lasith Malinga still gives opposition batsmen plenty to think about with his unorthodox action, but isn’t a surprise package any more.

New Zealand’s bowling won’t give the Sri Lankan top order any sleepless nights either, but showed against England that it is a solid and pretty effective unit.

Their main strength is also their batting, particularly Martin Guptill, who was in sensational form against England, and Ross Taylor, who also made valuable contributions. Kane Williamson is also dangerous, while the two McCullums, Brendon and Nathan, though yet to really fire this summer, can both turn a match when the mood is on them, especially Brendon, who is also impressing with his astute captaincy.

Another major plus for the Black Caps is their fielding. Man for man, they are probably the best in the business.

With bat expected to dominate ball for the most part, this could well be a high-scoring game. Sri Lanka can be explosive at the top of the order and Coral’s 8/11 that they will score more in the first 15 overs might be worth taking. But New Zealand to end up as winners could be the better call.

Guptill can still be backed at 11/4 with Coral to be New Zealand’s leading batsman and with those fantastic knocks against England still fresh in the memory, that could prove hard to resist, but Brendon McCullum is going to explode sooner or later and is also worth consideration at 5/1.

It’s 7/2 each of three, Sangakkara, Jayawardane and Dilshan for Sri Lanka, but have a good look, too, at Kushal Perera, the diminutive but powerful left-hander who has quickly made an impact in ODIs, averaging over 55.

Written by Jon Freeman