With less than two months left for the Cricket’s big event The One-Day World Cup, the Sri Lankans are set to begin their process with a Test series against one of the hosts of the event, New Zealand.
Sri Lankans would be looking to take the bigger format series as the rehearsal for World Cup for their inexperienced bowlers. None of their pacemen have played in more than 21 Tests, showing the inexperienced level.
On other hand, Hosts New Zealand will be looking to improve their players’ form. Freshly returned from a successful tour of UAE against Pakistan, their players struggled with injuries. A Test series at home might help their players to stay fit for all crucial World Cup.
New Zealand will be happy with the form of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor who played a crucial role in the success during the series against Pakistan.
Sri Lankans will be eager to see their veteran batsman, Kumar Sangakkara to come up all guns blazing in his likely last Test series. Sangakkara’s form will be main aspect to the young batting line up filled with shoes of Thirimanne, Mathews and Chandimal.
Looking at the strength and weakness, hosts New Zealand clearly hold the upper hand and can be considered as favourites against a young & not so experienced Sri Lankan team.
Leaving all these things, the first Test marks for the return of Boxing Day Test match to New Zealand after 11 years, as the Boxing Day Test was hosted in New Zealand for last time was in 2003.
Also, this is the first Test match to be played at Christchurch since 2006, also against Sri Lanka.
Pitch and Weather:
New Zealand pitches are usually known for producing pace and bounce and the windy conditions will help the swing for the bowlers. The pitch for the first test has been left with grass which will produce enough help for pacers. Coming to weather conditions, the first two days will be with dry skies and possibly the remaining part with clouds covering the sky.
Sri Lanka have plenty of options for their pace attack, with Shaminda Eranga, Suranga Lakmal, Dhammika Prasad and Nuwan Pradeep. However, Chaminda Vass has said that they will look for player who are cent percent fit. Also, they might have to make a decision between uncapped Tharindu Kaushal and Dilruwan Perera in spin department.
Sri Lanka XI (probable): Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews (capt.), Dinesh Chandimal, Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), Tharindu Kaushal/Dilruwan Perera, Dhammika Prasad, Shaminda Eranga, Suranga Lakmal
Brendon McCullum has virtually confirmed offspinner Mark Craig will play, given his success in UAE. Dean Brownlie is likely to fill the slot for the middle order over Hamish Rutherford.
New Zealand XI (probable): Tom Latham, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Dean Brownlie, James Neesham , BJ Watling (wk), Mark Craig, Doug Bracewell/Neil Wagner, Tim Southee, Trent Boult