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Home > Cricket > The Cup > Reuters > Report


Fleming pinpoints Sri Lanka's weakness in last 10 overs

Mark Meadows | April 24, 2007 11:18 IST

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New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming will target Sri Lanka's top three in Tuesday's World Cup semi-final in the hope of exposing a middle order which he believes lacks hitting power late in an innings.

The wicket at Sabina Park is expected to offer bounce and Fleming was relishing the prospect of fit-again strike bowler Shane Bond exploiting the perceived weakness, if the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya can be removed first.

"If we can take wickets at the top you are not going to be faced with a scenario where you have the Symonds and Watsons or Bouchers and Pollocks that can destroy you in the last 10 overs," Fleming told a news conference on Monday.

"We feel they are one team we can perhaps manage a bit better in the last 10. Potentially they are not as strong in that area it is just exposing that area that is tough."

Bond missed Friday's 215-run defeat by Australia because of a stomach complaint but is now fully fit. All-rounder Jacob Oram is also set to return after being rested because of a bruised heel.

"Shane is fine, it was more a lack of energy. I don't envisage any problems with him," Fleming said.

"Bounce might be a key factor. It may give us an advantage in terms of what we can extract with our taller bowlers but they'll be thinking the same thing."

The loss to Australia was in a meaningless Super Eights match when both sides had already qualified for the last four.

UNORTHODOX PACEMAN

Nevertheless Fleming was unhappy his troops lost concentration and said there would be no repeat against a Sri Lanka attack boasting spin master Muttiah Muralitharan and unorthodox paceman Lasith Malinga.

"We all knew we probably had our minds focused on the semi-final. We paid the price for that and won't be doing the same here even though the final is so close," said Fleming, whose side's only other defeat in the tournament was a six-wicket hammering by Sri Lanka.

"Their bowling attack I think is the most balanced and has the ability to take wickets at any stage down the innings.

"Each time you play Muralitharan you realise how good he is. We've just got to not be negative against him but be smart with him. They both deserve a lot of attention because they are so unusual."

While Sri Lanka's bowlers and top order are occupying Fleming's mind, the form of New Zealand's early batters also worries him slightly.

"It's always a concern. We've had stops and starts, predominantly we get one guy away. Certainly the top three have to be more productive in these last two games but we can cover it a little bit with our depth in batting."

The main selection issue for New Zealand is whether to continue playing two spinners or drop Jeetan Patel to allow for an extra paceman.

"Jeets has done very well, he is certainly in contention," Fleming said.

"We have been pretty strong on horses for courses in terms of pitch conditions. The debate we have is that with Scott Styris and Daniel Vettori providing 20 overs of good slow ball variation, at times it has been hard to fit them all in. It's just trying to get that balance right."

New Zealand, who have never reached a World Cup final, will face either defending champions Australia or South Africa in Saturday's Barbados final if they can overcome the 1996 champions.


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