Colombo – New Zealand will be hoping to add to Sri Lanka’s poor record at their
own Oval ground and level the series in the second and final Test
starting on Thursday.
Unlike the spinner’s paradise at Galle and the batting haven that is
the SSC, the Oval – the only ground in Asia where Don Bradman played –
favours seam bowlers.
Sri Lanka have been often exposed here by quality seam bowlers and
one up in the two-match series, they will have New Zealand’s Trent Boult
and Tim Southee – and possibly Neil Wagner – to contend with.
In the last 10 years, Sri Lanka have played seven games at The Oval
and lost five, including once to New Zealand. In that game seven years
ago, Southee claimed eight wickets while Boult finished with seven.
“We have some fond memories from last time, and we managed to win
that,” New Zealand wicketkeeper B.J. Watling said at a pre-match media
briefing on Wednesday.
“The boys like to talk about their wickets and there’s a few stunning
catches from memory as well. Having good memories is always good, but
it is a new game, a new day, and we need to be switched on,” Watling
Left-arm quick Wagner claimed nine wickets in New Zealand’s last Test
match and was unlucky to miss out in Galle as conditions heavily
favoured spin. He is expected to make a return possibly at the expense
of Mitchell Santner.
The opening Test was a lot closer than the six-wicket margin suggests
and the New Zealanders know that fielding lapses cost them dearly
after setting Sri Lanka a daunting task of 268 runs.
“No one’s trying to drop a catch or miss anything. I still look back
on those chances and they are pretty tough ones. Sometimes they stick
and sometimes they don’t,” Watling said.
“We have to give a lot of credit to Sri Lanka’s batsmen – especially that opening partnership.
“Hopefully in this Test we can look to make some more inroads through
that top order and hopefully put that middle order under more
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, will leave out off-spinner Akila Dananjaya,
whose action was reported to be suspect for a second time by match
officials after the Galle Test.
Dananjaya, who claimed a five-wicket haul in the opening game, was
forced to remodel his action after it was first reported in November
Technically he is allowed to play the second Test, but he is likely
to travel to India instead to test his action. Dilruwan Perera has been
drafted into the squad and is expected to play.
Sri Lanka will move up to the number five of the official ICC rankings if they win the second Test and the series.
More importantly, it will give them a strong start in the World Test Championship.
Wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella was confident his team will put on a good show.
“We want to win against world’s number two ranked team. It’s going to
be a different game here and fast bowlers will come into play a lot,”
“It’s a big challenge. Having won one game, we have a big
responsibility to win the series. We need to keep making good decisions
at crunch moments,” Dickwella told journalists.
New Zealand (From)
Kane Williamson (Captain), Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Colin de
Grandhomme, Todd Astle, William Somerville, Mitchell Santner, Tom
Blundell, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, B.J. Watling, Trent Boult, Tim
Southee, Ajaz Patel and Neil Wagner.
Sri Lanka (From)
Dimuth Karunaratne (Captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne,
Oshada Fernando, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis,
Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Lasith Embuldeniya,
Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara and Vishwa Fernando.
Umpire: Michael Gough and Bruce Oxenford (Australia)
Third Umpire: Richard Illingworth (England)
Match Referee: Andy Pycroft (Zimbabwe)