COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's brute batting force and shrewd bowling would be up against a sprightly New Zealand, aiming for a maiden summit clash berth in the World Cup, when the two sides clash in the first semifinal of the megaevent on Tuesday.
Despite making the semifinals in six out of 10 World Cups, New Zealand have always been dubbed the underdogs who have never made the. But the Kiwis believe this could be their breakthrough tournament.
New Zealand, after creating an upset in the quarterfinal by beating title-favourites South Africa, will be hoping to spring a similar surprise on the 1996 champions and 2007 runners-up.
"We are proud of our history of making semifinals, but looking at this team we want to make history and go one step further and make the final. We genuinely believe we can do that and we want to show that tomorrow," vice-captain Ross Taylor told reporters.
New Zealand qualified last from Group 'A', but stunned South Africa, who qualified first from Group 'B', in Dhaka on Friday when they beat them by 49 runs.
The spirited performance has created quite a buzz about the team which has a reputation of punching above its weight in major international events.
"We are taking a lot of confidence from our last game against south Africa. We have got an advantage that we have played against Sri Lanka in Group matches and we did a few things wrong there. Hopefully we can rectify that tomorrow," Taylor, who is also the highest run getter for the Kiwis in the competition told reporters.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, are one of the leading contenders to win this year's World Cup.
All four of their top order batsmen have scored hundreds in the competition so far but the lower half is a bit of a concern considering the number five, six and seven have just one half-century between them.
Sri Lanka had a comprehensive 10-wicket win over England in their quarterfinal on Saturday where they beat them with 63 balls to spare, but captain Kumar Sangakkara said despite the easy win, his team wouldn't take the New Zealanders lightly.
"We can learn a few things from the England game and rectify a few things. New Zealand are a good side. Wheat I have seen them is that in big tournaments they lift their game. They are a united bunch and I think our semi-final will be a close encounter. We need to play hard without thinking too far ahead and I don't like to overrate us," Sangakkara said.
Sri Lanka did beat New Zealand in a Group game in Mumbai, but Sangakkara said history hardly mattered in the knockout stage.
"Things like psychological advantage and all others takes a second place when it comes to proper cricket and good performance on the field. You can't think of what's gone before. Group stage games are long gone and I don't t think New Zealand are thinking about that," Sangakkara said.
Sri Lanka are expected to again go with a three-strong spin attack, a ploy they used against England and Australia.
However, there are doubts over off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who is nursing a hamstring injury.
The Kiwis, on the other hand, have no major injury and have in fact been boosted by the return to form imposing all-rounder Jacob Oram, who grabbed four wickets and a couple of athletic catches in the quarterfinal win over South Africa.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (Captain and Wicketkeeper), Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Chamara Kapugedera, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath.
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (Captain), James Franklin, Martin Guptill Jamie How, Brendon McCullum (Wicketkeeper), Nathan McCullum, Andy McKay, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Daryl Tuffey, Kane Williamson and Luke Woodcock.
Umpires: Steve Davis (Aus) and Aleem Dar (Pak)
Third Umpire: Marais Erasmus (SA)
Match Referee: Chris Broad (Eng)
Match starts: 1430 hrs (IST).