Dambulla: Amid distractions of the embarrassing 'no-ball' controversy, Sri Lanka go into their tri-series match against New Zealand here on Thursday, facing a daunting task to not only lift themselves out of the demoralising incident but to focus on cricket.
Sri Lanka had beaten New Zealand in their opening tri-series match but the home side have been stung by the all-round condemnation they received after off-spinner Suraj Randiv bowled a 'no-ball' to deny Indian opener Virender Sehwag a century on Monday.
Sri Lanka Cricket launched an internal probe by team manager Anura Tennekoon while captain Kumar Sangakkara also came under scanner as he was heard giving some instruction to Randiv in Sinhalese which was picked up by stump microphone.
The incident was stopped from snowballing into a major controversy with Indian team management and Cricket Board deciding to declare it a "closed chapter" after apologies from Randiv and top SLC officials.
Sri Lanka now face the onerous task of shifting focus on cricket and show that they are capable of winning matches even in difficult times.
The winner tomorrow will enhance their chances of making it to the summit clash as all the three teams have won a game each at the halfway stage though Sri Lanka are one point less than the other two sides who have got a bonus point each.
After a spectacular start to the tournament with a 200-run mauling of India, New Zealand hit a low after losing to Sri Lanka by three wickets in their next match but the Kiwis would fancy their chances tomorrow.
For that to happen, however, captain Ross Taylor, who hit a 95 in New Zealand's opening match against India, will have to lead from the front against the Sri Lankan bowlers who are expected to come out all guns blazing like a wounded tiger.
With home side fast bowler Lasith Malinga in fine form and getting support from the likes of Ajantha Mendis, the Kiwis, who are on five points, will have their task cut out.
The Sri Lankan top order will have to stand up against a balanced Kiwi bowling attack at the sporting Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium if they want to seek some solace from the 'no-ball' controversy by maintaining a clean slate against the Kiwis.
Opener Upul Tharanga, who made a fighting 70 in his side's victory over the same opponents on August 13, would look to repeat another such performance while captain Kumar Sangakkara will also be eager to continue his fine form starting from the Test series against India.
The islanders would also look towards a big innings from veteran batsman Mahela Jayawardene who has not contributed much in to the team cause in the two matches so far.
Opening batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan, who according to local media reports suggested Randiv to bowl the no ball to Sehwag, has also not done anything worthwhile.
New Zealand bowlers have done a decent job so far in the tri-series with pacers Kyle Mills and Daryl Tuffey picking up wickets while the slow bowlers were also chipping in.
The Teams (From):
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (c), Mahela Jayawardene (vc), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Rangana Herath, Suraj Randiv, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Thisara Perera, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Upul Tharanga.
New Zealand: Ross Taylor (capt), Kyle Mills (vice-capt), Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Gareth Hopkins (wk), Nathan McCullum, Andy McKay, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Peter Ingram, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Daryl Tuffey, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.
Match starts 2.30 pm (IST). PTI