The story of the young boy David felling the giant Goliath has resonated across many cultures for hundreds of years. The thought of the underdog triumphing over the gloating giant somehow warms our hearts. It has inspired artists to paint pictures, authors to write books, and musicians to write songs. One of my favourite is by Steve Apirana here, which I would recommend you play in the background, to provide some theme music to this preview.
So can Zimbabwe's David defeat the Goliath of Sri Lanka? Probably not.
However they do have some things going for them.
1. The match is at Pallekele. This ground looks like the real deal. A genuine Cricket ground, up in the mountains, with a nice bank, good facilities and an excellent pitch. It's a pitch that favours batsmen that take their time to get their eye in, and one that allows poor bowling to be punished.
Zimbabwe's batsmen certainly know how to take their time. 5 of their players have scored more than 100 runs at a strike rate of less than 60 in the last 2 years. But this big thing here is that it's a ground that seems to favour spin bowlers that get more bounce than spin. Bowlers like Price, Utseya and Lamb. Despite Sri Lanka being very good against spin, these are different spinners than they are used to.
2. Zimbabwe beat Sri Lanka recently. Within the last 12 months, the games have been 2-1 to Sri Lanka. And the one that Sri Lanka lost was convincing. Zimbabwe know that if things go well, then they are capable.
3. Chigumbura might actually fire. In the last 10 matches against Sri Lanka, Elton Chigumbura has scored 35 runs. 35 is a reasonable average, but a very bad total. However he has been beaten by spin in 7 of the 8 times that he's got out to a bowler. With spin less important in these conditions, It could be his turn. Finally.
However things are not all rosy. Here's some reasons that Sri Lanka can take heart.
4. The exception to the "spin bowlers don't take wickets at Pallekele" rule in Sri Lankan domestic cricket in Ajantha Mendis. He has not seemed to have the same worries. He also has an amazing record against Zimbabwe, averaging in single figures in 10 matches.
5. Nuwan Kulasekara Sri Lanka are known for their unorthodox bowlers, Mendis, Murali, Malinga, but Kulasekara hs the technique and patience that is perfect for undoing lesser players. And he bowls the sort of length that is likely to be rewarded in Pallekele. Watch out for him.
6. Upul Tharanga. Tharanga has seen Zimbabwe bowling as his meal ticket. He's scored 412 runs in 10 matches, almost 200 more than any other player in either team in those matches. And he looks hungry again tonight.
So my summary. There are reasons that Zimbabwe could win this game, but they are not convincing. If they are to win, they will need a good dose of luck.
If you are looking for somewhere to put your 20c, here are my suggestions. One almost sure bet would be for Sri Lanka to have the highest score after 15 overs, at $1.16. A slightly more risky, but at better odds is Tatenda Taibu to get 50 or more at $4.50. Taibu is good at playing when there is a bit of extra bounce, and so this pitch is likely to suit him.