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Kiwis target a flying start against Lanka
Julian Linden |
February 10, 2003 11:06 IST
New Zealand are hoping their recent history of starting World Cups in a blaze of glory will help them overcome their poor record against Sri Lanka when the sides meet in a Group B match on Monday.
The Kiwis have lost 13 of their last 16 matches against Sri Lanka but are confident they can end that run and make another flying start.
"It's a big match full stop and we're certainly treating it that way," New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming told a news conference on Sunday.
"Sri Lanka are a good side and we have to start this tournament well. This week, results wise, is very important to our future in this competition."
New Zealand made the World Cup semi-finals for the third time in 1992 when they beat Australia in their first match. They made the last four again in 1999 when they won the first two matches, against Bangladesh and Australia.
Fleming said New Zealand's decision to forfeit their match in Kenya because of security fears meant they had to beat Sri Lanka to have any real hope of winning the World Cup for the first time.
"It's pretty clear, if you want to be world champions you've got to win most games anyway," Fleming said.
"I know (eventual champions) Australia had a run last time where they scraped through to the Super Sixes but it would be nice if we could win two of these first three games, then it wouldn't be an issue."
Fleming discounted his team's poor record in recent matches against Sri Lanka, saying the livelier pitch conditions in South Africa would suit his team more than the Sri lankans.
"I think we're a much improved side since we last played Sri Lanka and we're confident about the way and style we'll play," he said.
"If we start this tournament well, we'll be a genuine threat but we have to start it well and get on a roll. It's all about a team or a group of players over a month and a half having the form of their lives."
Sri Lanka coach Dav Whatmore said his team were finally getting used to the conditions after months of preparation. The 1996 champions were comprehensively beaten on their recent tours of Sri Lanka and Australia but Whatmore said they would be a far better side once the World Cup began.
"Any subcontinent team that comes over to these conditions needs some time to adjust," Whatmore said.
"We've had a number of games in these conditions and there've been some encouraging signs that have emerged in the latter part of our preparation."
"We have had some very tough opposition...but we feel that in this competition we're not playing against the very best all the time. I think it all makes for a more intriguing match tomorrow.
"The Sri Lankan team have won more than we've lost but that doesn't really matter. It gives you a little bit of confidence, I guess, but it still boils down to who's on for it on the day."
Dashing opener Sanath Jayasuriya and off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan have long been the main architects of Sri Lankan success but Whatmore said everyone would have to perform for the team to have any hope of winning a second World Cup.
"If Sanath gets going, usually the game's broken open fairly early but we don't just rely on one or two players," he added.
"We've made it clear to everyone that we expect contributions right across the board and I think that's what it will take in some really tough World Cup matches.
"New Zealand have developed a very good side. They bat all the way down and they no longer throw the ball to (spinner Daniel) Vettori when they need a wicket.
"They've got other options to attack and they're fielding has been very supportive to the bowlers. They are not an easy team to beat."
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