A Sri Lankan side struggling for form and smarting from suspensions and retirements head to New Zealand for two Tests, three ODIs and a T20 against a resurgent home team coming off an excellent 2-1 series win over Pakistan in the UAE. Sri Lanka will look to reverse the recent disastrous England home series that ended in defeat in all three Tests. In the bargain they lost Rangana Herath to retirement, Dinesh Chandimal to injury and Akila Dananjaya to suspension due to his bowling action being deemed illegal.
The tour will be a real test of character for the Lankans where player-coach spats, heavy losses and board chaos has been the highlight more than the cricket has. The heavy 3-0 Test series defeat to England at home saw the entire selection panel jettisoned, while manager Charith Senanayake resigned after the first Test when he learned through the media he wouldn’t be required for the New Zealand tour. On the positive side, though their away form has been patchy over the last two years, wins against Pakistan, Bangladesh and the West Indies will give them heart that they could pull off an upset.
1st Test: 03:30am December 15th, Saturday @ Basin Reserve, Wellington
2nd Test: 03:30am December 26th, Wednesday @ Hagley Oval, Christchurch
1st ODI: 06.30am January 03rd, Thursday @ Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
2nd ODI: 06.30am January 05th, Saturday @ Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
3rd ODI: 03.30am January 08th, Saturday @ Saxton Oval, Nelson
11.30am January 11th, Friday @ Eden Park, Auckland
Tests (Since 1983)
New Zealand: 14
Sri Lanka: 8
First Match: 1st Test at Christchurch – March 4th – 6th, 1983, New Zealand won by an innings and 25 runs (NZ 344; SL 144 and 175 (f/o))
Last Match: 2nd ANZ Test at Seddon Park, Hamilton – December 18th – 21st, 2015, New Zealand won by five wickets (SL 292 and 133; NZ 237 and 189/5)
One Day Internationals (Since 1979)
New Zealand: 45
Sri Lanka: 41
No result: 8
First Match: Prudential World Cup – 2nd match, Group B; New Zealand won by 9 wickets at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, June 09th, 1979
Last Match: 5th ODI – New Zealand won by 36 runs at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui on January 5th, 2016
Twenty20 Internationals (Since 2006)
New Zealand: 7
Sri Lanka: 6
No Result: 1
First T20I: 1st Twenty20 International at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Sri Lanka won by 18 runs (D/L method), December 22nd, 2006
Last T20I: 2nd T20, New Zealand won by nine wickets at Eden Park, Auckland, on January 10th, 2016
One of the key clashes will be between the captains, Kane Williamson and Dinesh Chandimal. The Sri Lankan captain has a fine batting average of 44.29 but Williamson’s 51.57 is evidence of his batting superiority. In the latest ICC rankings the Black Caps captain has become the first New Zealander to achieve over 900 points and he is just seven points below Virat Kohli. Chandimal is ranked 12 but has only scored over 50 once in his last eight innings. Williamson has three including his majestic 139 against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.
New Zealand’s victory over Pakistan in their first series in almost a year and their subsequent announcement of their Test squad for the Sri Lanka series shows their ruthlessness as Will Somerville is discarded. Ajaz Patel won the battle of the spinners, as New Zealand’s wickets are far less spin friendly, but it seems harsh as Somerville produced the fourth best debut bowling figures for the Black Caps in UAE. Central Districts’ Will Young received his debut call-up but is unlikely to play. Having lost only once at home in the last two years, the Blackcaps will be confident going into the series.
The Lankans on the other hand arrive with a record of two wins from 17 tests in New Zealand, ahead of Saturday’s first Test at Wellington’s Basin Reserve. That was the scene of their most recent win, in December 2006, when Sangakkara’s 156 not out and Muttiah Muralitharan’s 10-wicket bag got them home. Since that victory they’ve suffered four successive defeats in New Zealand. Fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera was a shining light of the last series three years ago when he had the Black Caps batsmen jumping at a bouncy Seddon Park before Kane Williamson guided the hosts home by five wickets. Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep will make up the bowling attack with Pradeep being recalled after over twelve months away from the Test side. Kaushal Silva was omitted after a poor home series but captain Dinesh Chandimal returns after his groin injury. Chandimal, who missed the majority of Sri Lanka’s home Test series against England will be back to captain the side and has Dimuth Karunaratne as his deputy. Lahiru Thirimanne and wicketkeeper-batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama have also made a comeback.
The tourists’ preparations have been anything but smooth, with changes to their coaching staff increasing pressure on a team coming off a 3-0 Test series whitewash against England last month. Former England player Jonathan Lewis was named as the side’s new batting coach this week, joining Australia’s Steve Rixon, who was brought in as fielding coach last week. Sri Lanka’s bowling coach Nuwan Zoysa was suspended by the International Cricket Council in October after he was accused of match-fixing and other “corrupt conduct”. That same month, ex-chief selector and former captain Sanath Jayasuriya was charged for failing to cooperate with a match-fixing probe. Adding to their woes, off-spinner Akila Dananjaya was suspended this month for having an illegal bowling action, and the national team’s selection panel was sacked over the England series loss.
Who scores the runs against Trent Boult and company with the ball hooping and nipping about will be the key question. Kusal Mendis is test cricket’s third-highest runscorer this year, behind Virat Kohli and Joe Root, with 798 at 42. Opener Dimuth Karunuratne, who scored 84 in the first test in Dunedin in 2015, is seventh on that 2018 list with 647 runs at 54.
New Zealand Test Squad: Kane Williamson(c), Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel, Matt Henry, Will Young
Sri Lanka Test Squad: Dinesh Chandimal(c), Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka, Lahiru Thirimanne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep, Dimuth Karunaratne
New Zealand should easily take the series especially since Sri Lanka is still in rebuild mode but expect them to push hard with a bowling attack that can do well in the Kiwi conditions. Expect plenty of runs from both sides.
Ready for action Folks?
Who is your Super 8?
Leagues up in the Lobby, Go get ’em champs!