(UTV|COLOMBO) – The second series of the newly formed ICC World Test Championship beginning at the Galle International Stadium between Sri Lanka and New Zealand today looks like being confined to a watery beginning with the prospect of the match being affected largely by bad weather.
Neither team had any chance of even making their way to the ground as it rained throughout the day yesterday. The entire ground was under covers and it didn’t present an encouraging sight.
The BBC weather forecast for Galle during the five days of the Test is thundery showers for the first four days and sunny intervals on the fifth and final day.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson didn’t think too much about the weather but said, “All the guys are really excited to get the Test Championship under way.”
About the weather: “I guess that’s sort of an unknown. We haven’t seen the surface. In the 10 or 12 days we’ve been here, about eight of them have been rained out. It’s just one of those things that you try and prepare mentally as best as you can. We look forward to starting the Test tomorrow.”
New Zealand had only a day’s play in their only 3-day warm-up game against a Sri Lanka Cricket President’s XI at Katunayake with the other two days being washed out by rain. The bad weather seems to be following them because yesterday no one from either team got a hit at the nets. However both teams had a good work out on Monday when the rains kept away.
“I think the World Test Championship is a welcome addition to the Test format, bringing that context into every Test match that you play. Every time you play any team it’s very, very competitive, but now there’s that added carrot where in two years’ time everyone is vying for an opportunity play in a Test Championship final, which will be a really exciting thing to be a part of,” said Williamson.
“Between now and that potential outcome, there’s so much Test cricket to be played. The focus for us is definitely one game at a time, or one session at a time. We know we’re up for a really tough challenge here against Sri Lanka, against a really strong side.”
New Zealand who are ranked two in the Test rankings has a chance of overtaking India at the top if they can beat Sri Lanka by a 2-0 margin.
“If that happens, that would be great. The thing with rankings is that they fluctuate throughout a season, and are purely a reaction to the cricket that you’re playing,” said Williamson. “For us, we’re just focused on the cricket because that gives us the best chance of success. We’re looking forward to the challenge here against Sri Lanka, which is changing conditions. The home team knows them very well.”
New Zealand have won their last five Test series or looking a bit further ahead won seven of their last eight the only loss being to South Africa (1-0) at home since November 2016 which is evident with their current no. 2 Test ranking. New Zealand’s last Test series ended in March.
Sri Lanka for their part has been up and down in Test form but have performed better as a Test side than in the two white ball formats being ranked sixth. They would take a lot of confidence from their last Test series which was a historic 2-0 win in South Africa in February. Sri Lanka would also remember that their last home Test series ended in a 3-0 defeat at the hands of England who exploited the Lankan batsmen’s weakness against spin by using their three spinners Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Jack Leach quite effectively.
New Zealand has also come armed with a battalion of spinners perhaps taking a leaf from England’s book with leg-spinners Jeet Raval and Todd Astle, left-arm spinners Mitchell Santner and Ajaz Patel and off-break bowler William Somerville set to play key roles in the series.
Galle has been Sri Lanka’s stronghold but England were able to pierce through that fortress with their three spinners Ali, Rashid and Leach accounting for 16 of the 20 wickets and defeating the home side by a massive 211 runs.
New Zealand will be hoping for similar success but they will have to contend with the weather which was at its worst yesterday.
“We were too attacking perhaps in our last game here,” said Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne reflecting on that Galle defeat. “We couldn’t for example stop the flow of runs. Now we have plans to move forward. We need to dry up runs and we were perhaps too aggressive with the bat. Adaptability is the key to succeed in Test cricket.”
“All the spinners are in good shape. Rangana (Herath) and Dilruwan (Perera), who played in that game aren’t here. I believe this will be a good wicket for batsmen as well.”
Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya and off-spinner Akila Dananjaya are likely to fill the two spinners’ slots, while Niroshan Dickwella seems most likely to retain the wicket-keeper’s spot edging out Dinesh Chandimal. Dickwella kept wickets in the last Test series in South Africa.
The two fast bowlers’ berths will be fought out between Suranga Lakmal, Vishwa Fernando and Lahiru Kumara.
“We did our basics right in South Africa. That is what we need to do here. We are in a good position now and we are excited to play tomorrow. My message to the boys is to play without fear,” said Karunaratne. (DN)
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