Mumbai - Co-hosts Sri Lanka will be able to seal their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup with a win over Zimbabwe in their penultimate match at the Pallekele stadium on Thursday.
The loss against Pakistan and the washed-out game against Australia has put Sri Lanka, considered by many as one of the favourites to win the showpiece event, in a tricky situation.
The co-hosts, currently on five points from four matches, will aim to make short work of the African nation as an upset would put them under tremendous pressure in their last match against in-form New Zealand in Mumbai on March 18.
The island nation may opt for right-arm paceman Dilhara Fernando in Thursday's match, replacing either Rangana Herath or Ajantha Mendis in the process.
Zimbabwe's biggest challenge will be to bat the first 15 overs without giving away too many wickets against an attack spearheaded by paceman Lasith Malinga.
The Elton Chigumbura-led side have defeated fellow associates Canada, but lost to New Zealand and Australia.
Sri Lanka lead 38-7 (NR: 1)
In the World Cups, Sri Lanka lead 4-0
In the sub-continent, Sri Lanka lead 11-0
Zimbabwe have not beaten Sri Lanka ever in the sub-continent or in
the World Cups, and in the past 17 ODIs between these two nations, they
have managed to win only once (in 2010 at Harare) against a much
weakened Sri Lankan side when Brendan Taylor led with an unbeaten 119 to
chase down 236 runs.
However, Sri Lanka have always had to
produce something special to get past their African counterparts in each
of their World Cup outings. In 1992 Arjuna Ranatunga played a special
knock to chase down the highest total (312) so far (until Ireland
eclipsed it last week); 1996 was Aravinda De Silva's year; in 1999,
Romesh Kaluwitharana and Chaminda Vaas got together to see their team
through and 2003 saw a classy century from Marvan Attapattu to get past
Sri Lanka (WLWWW), despite their close defeat to
Pakistan and a washed-out match against Australia, are looking good.
Kumar Sangakkara (241 runs) is third on the list of highest run getters
and has looked in classy touch, and Tillakaratne Dilshan (139 runs) and
Mahela Jayawardene (125 runs) have looked like getting big scores.
Zimbabwe (LWLLL), on the other hand, have been struggling although
they looked good against Canada and started brightly against Australia.
Tatendu Taibu (113 runs overall) and Craig Ervine (96 runs) have at
least got one decent innings of 98 and 85 respectively under their belt.
While Lasith Malinga dismantled Kenya with 6-38 (including a
hat-trick), other bowlers, too, like Thisara Perera (five), Muttiah
Muralitharan and Nuwan Kulasekara (four apiece) have been among the
wickets. For Zimbabwe, Ray Price (with four wickets) has looked
threatening but has not had much support from the other end.