The hosts Sri Lanka are set to play the first match of the fourth T20 World Cup against the minnows Zimbabwe. Both the teams have never met in the World Cup as Zimbabwe has failed to progress beyond the Group Stage in the last two appearances. Playing first time in the World Cup against each other the odds are highly stacked against Zimbabwe who are definitiley looking to enter the Super Eight for the first time. Yet, Sri Lankans have been a dominant force in past three World Cups. There is nothing to suggest that their campaign would end with an upset.
Sri Lanka have won the two T20s they played outside World Cup, giving no chances to the hapless African team.
Their current form and winning the triangular cup where they defeated South Africa adds some hope to their effort to get respect. Brendam Taylor, Chigumbura, Sibanda, Mpofy alongwith others give them a more stable look. Yet the challenge is tough.
Restricting the Sri Lankan army of hitters to a gettable total is a huge task for any team, that too in their own backyard at Hambantota. Still considering that the T20 pitches are hardly supportive of the local teams as almost all the pitches around the world are tailor-made for batsmen, and remembering their only win in World Cup when they upset Australia, the Zimbabwe players may get motivated to put the extra punch.
The challenge is for the batsmen to rise agianst the likes of Malinga, Mendis, Kulasekara and Mathews. The batsmen have the talent, yet at higher level they have more often failed. If the batsmen can shine, Sri Lankans may face some resistance.
Sri Lanka at ease
Playing against Zimbabwe may not give any jitters to the Lankan team who have a good record of thumping the minnows with cruelty. They are one of those teams that hardly give an inch to the minnows. In fact, if minnows can stretch them to gain a victory that would be an accomplishment.
Mahela, one of the prolific scorer in the World Cup, again appears to be in good form and leading the team with agilitiy and motivation. Sangakkara and Dilshan are other two old horses on whom Sri Lanka still banks on. Yet the most challenging would be the middle order with the likes of Angelo Mathews who may give Sri Lanka the extra lift in the last 5 overs.
Malinga, the assassin is difficult even for established players. Zimbabwe may feel good to escape his 4 overs unhurt even if most of them are maidens. Kulasekara and spinners pose a tough challenge in Sri Lankan environment.
Overall Sri Lanka has not much to worry. Still playing as a host may add extra pressure on them. On the other hand the Cricket fans would love to see an upset as off late Zimbabwe appears to be the best among the minnows.
Can they hold their good form for 40 overs? That is the big question in the opening match. Otherwise 2 points are already for Sri Lanka to own.