The first Test at Galle was a topsy-turvy game. Both teams were neck and neck after the first innings but despite setting a competitive fourth innings target, the visitors weren’t able to force a positive result. Sri Lanka in the other hand was brilliant with the bat in the fourth innings and made light work of a difficult target on that pitch. Dimuth Karunaratne played a brilliant inning of 122 to help his side chase down the total and go up 1-0.
New Zealand will want to bounce back at the P Sara Oval and they would want a better effort from the bowling attack. New Zealand went with three spinners at Galle which probably was overkill on that wicket. Kane Williamson would want to rethink that strategy for the second Test in Colombo. Dropping Neil Wagner, who has been the enforcer for the Kiwis over the last couple years was probably something they would want to rethink. The batting did well in the first Test especially the second innings, which means there might not be many changes in the XI that played the first Test.
Sri Lanka would be extremely happy the way the first Test went for them and they might decide to play the same XI for the second Test as well. Dinesh Chandimal who failed to make the XI in the first Test might probably have to wait a little longer for his comeback. The only concern for the hosts might be of Akila Dhanajaya whose action has been reported once again. It will be interesting if they would continue to play him in the second Test.
Dimuth Karunaratne (Sri Lanka): The Sri Lankan captain had a good first Test. He batted impressively in both the innings and his match-winning 122 was the highlight of the game. He will be once again expected to lead from the front at the top of the innings.
Akila Dhanajaya (Sri Lanka): Dhanajaya had a good first Test. He got a fifer in the first innings and his variations had the kiwi batters in trouble on a pitch which helped the spinners. Even though his action has been reported once again, Sri Lanka is still expected to pick him in the XI and he will once again be expected to pick wickets with his variations.
Ross Taylor (Sri Lanka): While Kane Williamson had a horror game at Galle, Ross Taylor played an important knock of 82 in the first innings to guide his side closer to the Sri Lankan total. Taylor is a brilliant player of spin and him being in good form is a good sign for the visitors. He will once again be important if New Zealand has to level this series.
Ajaz Patel (New Zealand): In his short career Patel has become a crucial part of New Zealand’s bowling arsenal. He once again picked up a good five-wicket haul in the first innings. He will once again be important for New Zealand in Colombo as the wickets there tend to aid spin as well.
What they said?
“I thought our bowlers operated patiently for a long period of time. We probably even bowled better in the second innings, but without the edges going to hand, and those sorts of things, which is the nature of the game we play. Still, I think in a last-innings chase, a lot of credit goes to the way Sri Lanka batted. It was a fantastic hundred by Dimuth.” Said Kane Williamson reflecting on the final innings of the first Test.
“What Dimuth says is go and do what you want to do, and what you feel you can do. If we make a mistake, he’ll pull us aside and say this happened, why don’t we fix that mistake for next time? He talks a lot about being confident about your abilities. And he gives you that confidence.” Said Dickwella about his captain even though his spot isn’t certain for the second Test
Sri Lanka XI:
Dimuth Karunaratne (C), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Embuldeniya
New Zealand XI:
Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee/Neil Wagner, William Somerville, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel
The weather forecast at the P Sara Oval over the next five days isn’t that good and thunderstorms have been predicted throughout the Test. New Zealand would want to have a full game and would hope to repeat their heroics on the same ground in 2012 which they won to level the series. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, would hope that their spinners once again will do the job for them to seal the series in Colombo. This will be an interesting game and considering how the Kiwis have been playing in the subcontinent recently, they cannot be written off.