Sri Lanka will look to strike an early blow against New Zealand in Christchurch this week and hope Australia can thwart India to keep the World Test Championship (WTC) race alive. With Australia already confirmed in the WTC final, Sri Lanka can join them by sweeping New Zealand in their two-Test series if India are denied victory in the fourth Test in the subcontinent.
The series starts at Hagley Oval on Thursday, the same day India and Australia start their final Test at the mega-stadium in Ahmedabad. Sri Lanka has by far the harder assignment, needing to create history to leapfrog their south Asian rivals. They have never won more than a single Test in New Zealand and their last victory was in 2006, when Mahela Jayawardene’s team split a 1-1 series with the Stephen Fleming-captained hosts.
“Beating New Zealand in New Zealand is certainly going to be a huge task but last time we played some good cricket over here,” veteran all-rounder Angelo Mathews told reporters on Tuesday, referring to their 1-0 defeat on the 2019 tour. “We have to play fire with fire because they’re going to come hard at us.”
Sri Lanka have left no stone unturned in their preparations and recently held a training camp at a new facility in the hills south of Kandy to try to simulate New Zealand’s cool conditions and bouncy wickets.
A team more accustomed to attacking with spin, Sri Lanka have brought a full stable of pace bowlers to New Zealand. They will have to learn on the job as none of the quicks has ever played a test in New Zealand, while Milan Priyanath and seam-bowling all-rounder Chamika Karunaratne boast one Test between them.
New Zealand, meanwhile, are in good spirits after pulling off a famous one-run win over England in Wellington last week. That left the series a 1-1 draw and preserved the Black Caps’ unbeaten record at home dating back to 2017.
The team’s top batsman and former captain Kane Williamson will be a late arrival to Christchurch as he mourns the death of his grandmother. The squad is otherwise “buzzing”, said skipper Tim Southee.
“We haven’t felt that for a while and just to have that buzz around test cricket is great,” said the fast bowler of the well-attended England series. “Hopefully, that continues over the next few weeks.”
With some rain forecast through the Christchurch Test, Dimuth Karunaratne’s Sri Lanka might do well to follow England’s attacking example and seek to move the game on quickly in pursuit of victory.
Anything less than a win before the second Test in Wellington will put India into the WTC final. Mathews said Sri Lanka would stick to their style, having won three of their last six series and suffering their only loss to India away.
“Obviously, the English are playing a different brand of cricket,” he said. “No pressure at all. We know that we’ve got to win both the games to be in the final and we have to play really good cricket. It’s pretty straightforward.”
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.
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