Sri Lanka trails New Zealand 1-0 in the three-match series with the first game won by the hosts and the second a washout. A win in Hamilton would give them 10 crucial points in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Super League.
The top eight sides in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Super League standings qualify directly for the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023. The five remaining teams will participate in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Qualifier, all set to be played in Zimbabwe in June-July 2023.
The Qualifier will be a ten-team event, which will feature the bottom five of the Super League, the top three of the recently concluded ICC Men's Cricket World Cup League 2 and the top two sides from the ongoing ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off in Namibia.
Two out of these will make it to the World Cup in India.
The top seven sides in the Super League standings are in the clear of making it to the World Cup, while the bottom two, Zimbabwe (65) and Netherlands (35), are sure to play the Qualifier.
That means the eighth direct spot for the global event is a tussle between four sides. West Indies are presently at eighth with 88 points but having played all their games in the Super League cycle can only view the rest of the proceedings as a spectator.
Sri Lanka are currently placed ninth (81 points) with a game to go. South Africa (78 points) are one below with two to play, and Ireland (68 points) have three fixtures in hand.
South Africa are due to play two Super League matches against the Netherlands on March 31 and April 2 respectively, while Ireland host Bangladesh for a three-match ODI series in May. Both teams would look to win all their remaining encounters, which will put them at 98 points each, above both West Indies and Sri Lanka, to ensure direct entry.
For the Lions, a loss on Friday would mean that they remain below West Indies in the Super League standings irrespective of other results. That would mean that the team must travel to Africa in June for the qualifiers to secure a direct spot.
Hence a win, even if not a guarantee of a direct spot, would keep Lankan hopes alive for now.
Given New Zealand's dominant display in the first game at Auckland, the Dasun Shanaka-led side will know they have a tall task. (ANI)