Colombo: Sri Lanka eye a triple World Cup strike against New Zealand in Tuesday's semi-finals, but skipper Kumar Sangakkara fears that poor fielding may jeopardise his team's hopes of making the final.
Sri Lanka defeated the Black Caps by 81 runs in the 2007 semi-finals in the Caribbean and then coasted to a 112-run win in the group stage of this edition, nine days ago, in Mumbai.
The co-hosts and 1996 champions registered a comprehensive 10-wicket win over England in the quarter-finals on Saturday, but Sangakkara warned that his team cannot afford to under-estimate a dangerous opponent in New Zealand.
Sri Lanka restricted England to 229-6 despite half-centuries from Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan before chasing down the target in 39.3 overs with hundreds from Tilakaratane Dilshan and Upul Tharanga at the R. Premadasa stadium.
"New Zealand are always a competitive side, they are very balanced, so we will never take them lightly. We know that it's a big challenge to beat them again," said Sangakkara.
Sangakkara was part of the Sri Lanka team which beat the Black Caps in the semi-finals in 2007 on their way to a runners-up place in the final against Australia.
"It's nice that at least one sub-continent team has been in the final since 1992, but we can't take anything for granted. We have to work hard and shouldn't think too far ahead and overestimate ourselves."
Sri Lanka batted and bowled solidly against England but their fielding left a lot to be desired, dropping as many as four catches, three off Morgan - a weakness Sangakkara believed could be costly.
"We need to brush up on our fielding and improve because if you give one batsman a chance then it can prove costly," said Sangakkara.
Veteran off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan will again have a major role to play on Tuesday.
"All those wickets he has taken for Sri Lanka are phenomenal," said Sangakkara of Muralitharan who now has 532 one-day wickets.
"He has done that before with injury and it shows how hungry he is for wickets."
Muralitharan, who took four wickets in the 2007 semi-final, was also at his best in the group match win against New Zealand, taking 4-25 despite having an injured hamstring.
The 38-year-old will retire after the World Cup.
New Zealand's motivation for a place in the final will not be lacking as they have failed to go beyond the semi-finals in five previous attempts.
Captain Daniel Vettori believes a lack of consistency was the reason for the failures.
"It's our big chance in the semi-finals to go one better," said Vettori, whose team has only won one major event, the Champions Trophy in 2000.
New Zealand will once again look to all-rounder Jacob Oram to create some magic, like his four wickets and two superb catches against South Africa in the quarter-final.
"I think the reputation we have is that we can beat any team on a given day," said Vettori, who along with Nathan McCullum and Luke Woodcock can match Sri Lanka's spin trio, if the R. Premadasa pitch offers turn.
Pacer Andy McKay has replaced an injured Kyle Mills in the squad, but will have to wait on the sidelines as Daryl Tuffey could come in.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (capt), Mahela Jayawardene, Upul Tharanga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Chamara Kapugedera, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath.
Coach: Trevor Bayliss (AUS)
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (capt), James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Andy McKay, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock, Daryl Tuffey.
Coach: John Wright (NZL)
Umpires: Steve Davis (AUS) and Aleem Dar (PAK)
TV umpire: Marais Erasmus (RSA)
Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)
Match starts: 0230 IST
Pitch condition: A dry, brown pitch which was used for the Pakistan-Australia match in the group stages. It will help batsmen but has carry and bounce for bowlers as well, and spinners will also have turn in the later stages.