2-0. This was the series scoreline that current opponents Sri Lanka and New Zealand had in their respective last outings. While Sri Lanka was the one with the scoreline favouring them as they defeated West Indies at home, New Zealand were on the receiving end when arch rivals Australia beat them in the historic day/night Test match. Although the home team suffered a loss in their last Test, they would still be considered as the favourites to win their upcoming series against Sri Lanka starting tomorrow.
Although past records don’t go New Zealand’s way but present conditions do. The last time this duo encountered each other, they were faced with the daunting task of counter-attacking the most experienced batting duo of Sangakkara and Jayawardene. But that was then. Now, the see-saw has tilted towards them as both of the Lankan lions have called it a day from cricket and even the bowling department of the visiting team lacks experience. A current lot of Sri Lankan players have never played in these foreign conditions and would, therefore, have to make many adjustments. The Blackcaps are in a very comfortable position here. Taking the positives from their last game, their bowlers have performed brilliantly while their batsmen would still require some polishing. Just for one positive record – New Zealand have won five of their last six Tests at home, and are unbeaten in the country since March 2012.
Speaking of the battleground conditions, the pitch has a thick green covering on the eve of the match, and as such will probably be conducive to seam movement on the first two days. There is rain expected over the weekend, but that forecast is constantly changing. Sri Lanka are unlikely to enjoy the temperature, which is forecast to remain in the high teens and low twenties for the duration of the game.
This could pose as a big plus point for the home team as their pace bowlers have been up and running quite brilliantly. The green deck would complement their pace and swing bowling which could pose a threat for the Lankan batsmen. Sri Lanka’s strength of spin bowling would not be of much help here as the wicket is not expected to offer many turns until day 4. Their batsmen would have to adapt themselves to play swing bowling quite effectively in order to put up big totals on the scoreboard.
New Zealand’s captain Brendon McCullum has had a non-entertaining year so far. Not producing any major knocks in prominent games, his quick-fire scores remain due which the stylish right-hander would look forward to payback. Speaking of batsmen, Kane Williamson remains to be the star batsman for the Kiwis this year. The previous series against Australia saw the right-handed batsman scoring 428 runs in 6 innings. He managed 2 hundred and a half-century in the last outing. The other batsmen like seniors Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor will also have to up their ante as their experience would come off great in order to pressurize the inexperienced bowling lot of Sri Lanka.
Bowling is not much of a concern for The Black Caps. The likes of Trent Boult and Tim Southee with their excessive speed and pace would give enough ammunition for the home team to demolish the Lankans by the early stages of the game.
Coming to the Islanders’ side, the most important thing they lack in their squad is experienced. Leading the troop, Angelo Mathews would have to double his contributions in every department to inspire his team to perform better. Just before the series even started, the visitors were greeted with a big blow when star wicketkeeper – opening batsman Kusal Perera was sent back home after testing positive for the consumption of banned substance, according to BBC Sport. Strike bowler Dhammika Prasad will also be missing in the starting XI due to a back injury.
With two big blows coming to their squad even before a single ball was bowled in the series, Angelo Mathews said, Our premier fast bowler in Dhammika, has taken a lot of wickets in the recent past, and we’re going to miss him so bad. Kusal’s news was shocking as well, to be honest.”
Uncapped bowler Vishwa Fernando has been called in to replace Prasad, according to the NZ Herald. Kaushal Silva would be put behind the stumps to do the job that Perera was meant to do.
New Zealand looked positive a day before the 1st Test match. Their captain is proud of the way New Zealand has risen in recent times. “Looking back over the last couple of years, the emergence and development of this team are something that we – as leaders within the group – can be pretty proud of. We’re by no means the finished product and we’ll have a few challenges over the next little while. But overall we’re starting to shape into a very good cricket team. The profile of this cricket team has picked up recently too.” he said.
Predicted XI –
New Zealand – Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson(wk), Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum(c), BJ Watling, Mark Craig, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult
Sri Lanka – Dimuth Karunaratne, Udara Jayasundera, Kithuruwan Vithanage, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Angelo Mathews (c), Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Rangana Herath, Dushmantha Chameera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep.
Date: November 10-14, 2015
Time: 10:30 a.m. local (9:30 p.m. Wednesday GMT, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday ET)
Venue: University Oval, Dunedin, New Zealand
Live Stream and TV Info: Sky Sports (UK), Sky Sport (New Zealand), SuperSport (South Africa), NowTV (The UK, subscription required), Willow TV (US, subscription required)
Weather: According to AccuWeather.com, the match could see several interruptions due to rain, albeit only showers. The forecast for Friday (Day 2) is the only one set to be clear for the entire duration of play.