Injury woes add up to an already depleted Sri Lanka as Lasith Malinga is set to miss the ODI series due to an injured knee. New Zealand, also missing major all-rounders, would have only one advantage to bank on, i.e, being a home side, to win the 1st ODI against Sri Lanka.

The pace bowler with a slingy-action is currently Sri Lanka’s T20 captain. His absence boosts the list of big names that Sri Lanka would be missing in the 1st ODI. Retired after playing their last World Cup, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene create a big void in Sri Lanka’s batting order and with Malinga out of the ODI series, even the bowling department would have to find a new strike bowler. The deficiency of firepower remains distributed between both the teams. New Zealand’s all-rounders Corey Anderson, Jimmy Neesham and Grant Elliot are set to miss the first two-three ODIs while they nurse their respective injuries.

Both teams would have fairly consisted of new players forming the core. Henry Nicholls could get his Black Cap if star batsman Kane Williamson fails to recover from his knee injury before the 1st Test. The 24-year-old Canterbury left-hander is in line to make his international debut at Hagley Oval in either of the first two games of the five-match one-day series. Williamson has been the highest run scoring batsman for New Zealand this year. His century in the second Test handed New Zealand their series win, but the top-order batsman was limping badly with a heavily strapped right knee.

“We’re just working through that knee. It’s just a little bit niggly so we want to make sure it’s a hundred percent,” New Zealand batting Coach Craig McMillan said.

“We’ll see how he feels. We need to get it right if a little bit of a break will help it that’s something we’ll consider.”

If Williamson is ruled out, Nicholls would be asked to take his place and to his advantage, past records show that the left-handed batsman has scored heavily in domestic cricket at the match day venue – Hagley Oval. He has scored 683 runs in eight matches at an average of 52.53.

“He’s certainly in the mix when you look at our line-up,” said McMillan.

“I don’t think there’s any better place to make your debut than at home. He’s played a lot of cricket here. It would probably ease the tension a little bit when you know you’re on a ground that you’ve played well at before.

“His progression over the last 24 months has been excellent, he’s matured in a lot of areas in terms of his game.

“His white ball cricket has certainly improved over the last two years.”

Talking of new players and comebacks, Sri Lanka seems to breathe a sigh of relief as dashing opener Tillakaratne Dilshan would be back in the squad. He may not be able to send the ball to the fences so frequently, but the 39-year old can sure be the moderator and act as an anchor. Nuwan Kulasekara would be seen in the ranks, as he remains to be the most experienced bowler and hence, the clear choice to lead the attack. All-rounder Thisara Perera joins to squad too to provide stability in the middle order.

Strike bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult would miss the action as they have been rested for the first two and three ODIs respectively.

Malinga remains to be out of the action for the entire series and it is unclear on who would lead his side if the pace bowler is ruled out of the T20 series as well. “He has not come for the ODIs,” team manager Jerry Woutersz said. “He’s feeling some discomfort in his knee. Whether he will come between the ODIs and T20s — no one knows.”

Leaving the team combinations aside, the sneak peek of the pitch states that the batsman would have a gala time as the wicket remains to be a flat one. Not to forget, Hagley Oval was the only venue to witness four scores of 300 runs or above in World Cup.

The weather is expected to be somewhat cloudy, but dry, with temperatures expected to hover in the low-20-degrees range.

Predicted XI –

Sri Lanka: 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Lahiru Thirimanne, 3 Danushka Gunathilaka, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5 Angelo Mathews (c), 6 Milinda Siriwardana, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Suranga Lakmal

New Zealand: 1 Brendon McCullum (c), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson / Henry Nicholls, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 George Worker, 6 Mitchell Santner, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Adam Milne, 10 Ish Sodhi, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan

Venue – Hagley Oval, Christchurch

Time – 3:30 AM (Dec 26)/ 10:00 PM GMT (Dec 25) / 10:00 AM LOCAL

Date – December 26, 2015, Saturday