After losing the first encounter on Sunday, hosts Sri Lanka find themselves in a must-win situation as they face New Zealand in the second T20I of the three-match series at Pallekele on Tuesday.
While Ross Taylor and Colin de Grandhomme’s blistering 79-run partnership was where the game was lost for Sri Lanka, they would also want to look at how they pace their innings with the bat in T20Is. On Sunday, the Sri Lankan innings followed a pattern that has been problematic for them in recent times. A pattern which sees them score heavily at the start and at the end of the innings, but struggle to add quick runs in the middle overs.
In the first T20I, Sri Lanka raced off to 50/1 in the first six overs. But as soon as the field restrictions were lifted, the run-rate dropped a fair deal. Between overs 7-15, they managed just 64 runs. While the run-rate was 8.33 during the first Powerplay, it was 7.11 over the next nine overs.
You might think it’s natural for the run-rate to drop during the middle overs, but it must be noted that among the top 12 teams, since 2017, only three teams have an average run-rate of below 7.11 between overs 7-15. Unsurprisingly, Sri Lanka are one of those teams. In fact, since 2017, only West Indies (6.37) have a lower batting run-rate than Sri Lanka (6.82) during this period of the innings.
On Sunday, the hosts managed to hit just four boundaries between overs 7-15, another unsurprising development as Sri Lanka are the team with the lowest boundary percentage (11.17) since 2017 during this stage of an innings. In the last five overs, they managed 60 runs at a run-rate of 12, but as long as they fail to get those boundaries in the middle overs, Lasith Malinga’s side are bound to get underwhelming results.
On the bowling front, Malinga and debutant Wanindu Hasaranga’s superb spells went in vain as the other bowlers leaked runs. In their eight overs combined, the duo conceded 44 runs (run-rate of 5.5) and picked up four wickets. The other bowlers, meanwhile, bowled 11.3 overs, conceded 122 runs (run-rate of 10.6) and took just one scalp. If they don’t step up in the second T20I, the series is likely to be lost.
New Zealand, on the other hand, will want to improve their death over bowling. Since 2018, among the top 10 teams, no one has conceded runs at a quicker rate than the Blackcaps (10.56) between overs 16-20. With Trent Boult rested and Lockie Ferguson out due to a fractured thumb, this series presents an opportunity for the visitors to identify other pacers who are in contention for a spot in next year’s T20 World Cup squad.
Tim Southee, who is captaining the team with Kane Williamson rested, was economical – conceding just 20 runs. He bowled the 17th and 19th overs, and conceded just 11 runs in those overs. But in the long term, Southee is probably not the best option as he has a career economy rate of 9.62 in the last five overs of a T20I innings. In this year’s IPL, he went for 13.11 runs per over during the death overs which prove that his bowling is not best suited for this period of the game.
Seth Rance was very expensive, conceding 58 runs from his four overs on Sunday and the Kiwis might be tempted to bring in leg-spinner Todd Astle for the 32-year-old pacer.
New Zealand’s opening pair of Colin Munro and Martin Guptill scored 0 and 11 respectively in the first T20I, but this was an exception rather than the rule. Since 2017, the pair have scored at a run-rate of 9.97 when batting together, the second highest for any opening partnership in T20Is (minimum - 10 innings). While they like to bat at a rapid scoring rate, they might be better off seeing off Malinga’s new ball spell before going for the big shots.
While Sri Lanka like to score big during the death overs and New Zealand have been below par during that period of the game, this match could be decided by the battle between the home team’s batting and away team’s bowling in the middle overs.
Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera (wk), Avishka Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Shehan Jayasuriya, Akila Dananjaya, Isuru Udana, Wanidu Hasaranga, Lasith Malinga (c), Kasun Rajitha.
Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Tim Seifert (wk), Ross Taylor, Colin de Grandhomme, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Todd Astle, Scott Kuggeleijn, Tim Southee (c), Ish Sodhi.