NESLON - Despite losing the ODI series against New Zealand, Sri Lanka will walk into the final contest believing they can turn things around. Both games have followed a similar pattern where Sri Lanka have lost the games in the death overs but individual performances got them close.

In Nelson, the task is pretty straightforward for the visitors. They need their batting unit to fire in unison and need to find a way to control the leaking runs at the death. Thisara Perera’s career-best with the bat wasn’t enough for Sri Lanka to level the series but the all-rounder has had a big role to play in New Zealand posting massive totals. In both contests, James Neesham took a liking for his pace and milked runs with ease. Lasith Malinga and the think-tank need to find better alternatives in the final few overs and the Sri Lanka limited-overs captain could well be the answer. Despite losing his prowess with the ball, Malinga still has the variations to keep the batsmen in check.

Kusal Perera’s ton and then Thisara’s century in the second game have somewhat masked Sri Lanka’s batting failures. After the openers impressed in the opening game, they were again hit by the inconsistency bug which dented their prospects heavily. A collective batting effort could well go a long way if Sri Lanka are to challenge New Zealand, and the other sides in the upcoming World Cup later this year.

For New Zealand, the final ODI presents an opportunity to finalise their combination for the following limited-over series against India. It’s also a chance to prove to themselves that the five catches dropped in the second ODI was a one-off incident that shouldn’t be frowned upon too much. One of the aspects they’ll look to address, if the opportunity presents, is to give more time in the middle to both Henry Nicholls and Tim Seifert.

With the track expected to be another batting beauty, Sri Lanka will be desperate for a performance from their bowlers. Individual brilliance have threatened New Zealand but the hosts were always expected to win - and they did.

Trent Boult is likely to be rested for this contest with Doug Bracewell grabbing his place. The hosts could also think of looking past Tim Southee for a game and give Lockie Ferguson another go at the fragile Sri Lankan batting. Dasun Shanaka could get a game but the think-tank will have to decide if they want to go in without Asela Gunaratne or Seekkuge Prasanna.

Tim Southee’s place in New Zealand’s ODI team is in danger. With the likes of Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry constantly performing he will be under some pressure now. Moreover, Southee’s last match figures of 1/68 in eight overs has made his case worse. The fact that he was not a starter in the series opener proves that the management is looking at other options than Southee. A five-wicket haul and improved death-overs bowling in the near future is a must for him to make it into the playing XI for the World Cup.

Thisara Perera is seriously in the form of his life. If he had managed to win the last game for Sri Lanka, it would’ve ranked among one of the greatest ODI knocks in the history. But he needs to improve his bowling in order to become the best all-rounder in the world. Perera should master death-overs bowling which has been his weakness and the same has been exposed in the last two ODIs.

“Every game you play for New Zealand is important and as a group we’re trying to get better. These are new conditions, too, and you have to adapt and that’s what good teams do. We’ve got that blueprint to try and get 300-plus which we’ve done in the last two games by setting it up and hopefully we can continue that,” said Colin Munro. “We can’t improve our skill overnight but mentally we need to do better,” said Malinga.

TEAMS (FROM):- NEW ZEALAND: Kane Williamson(c), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Colin Munro, James Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee.

SRI LANKA: Lasith Malinga(c), Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Asela Gunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Lakshan Sandakan, Seekkuge Prasanna, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Sadeera Samarawickrama.