New Zealand players train ahead of the second Test
Pix by Nisal Baduge
By Amindha de Alwis
Sri Lanka will be eyeing a series whitewash as they gear up to face New Zealand in the final match of their two-Test series at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo today.
The home side, fresh off their record breaking chase of 268 in last week’s first Test at Galle which earned them 60 points in the ICC World Test Championship, will head into today’s game hoping to repeat the dose at a ground which has not been particularly favourable to them in recent years, having lost 5 of their last 7 Test matches at the venue. For the visitors, it’ll be a chance to square the series and subsequently get their World Test Championship campaign up and running; having failed to secure any points from the first Test.
Several of New Zealand’s senior players will hold fond memories of their last visit to the Oval back in November 2012 when they pulled off a series-leveling 167-run victory in the second Test match of the series on the back of centuries by Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, and a combined 15 wickets from pace duo Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
The Kiwis will look to their Skipper Kane Williamson, who had an uncharacteristic twin failure at Galle, to lead from the front and provide the runs and top-order stability that they are accustomed to seeing from him.
Sri Lankan wicket-keeper batsman Niroshan Dickwella stated that he expects the P. Sara wicket to be of a different nature to the pitch served up at Galle.
“I think this pitch will suit the batsmen and fast bowlers more than the Galle surface did. I think there will be more runs here from both teams than there was in Galle. Of the Sri Lankan tracks, this one is also especially helpful to quick bowlers. But I think it will be good for batsmen as well.”
Sri Lanka have a perfect record in the three Test matches since Dimuth Karunaratne was appointed Captain in February and Dickwella was complimentary of the way that Karunaratne has been going about his business as leader of the side.
“I’ve played a lot with Dimuth and what he does is give the player the freedom to go and express themselves one-hundred percent in the match. What Dimuth says is go and do what you really want to 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 making sure you play with freedom,” Dickwella said. Speaking on off spinner Dilruwan Perera’s availability, Dickwella said, “He’ll be available for selection. He has had a bad knee injury for a while now. But he’s been recovering, and he’s been bowling and has done his gym sessions as well. He’s fully recovered now.”
New Zealand wicket-keeper BJ Watling who scored a gritty 77 in the first Test reflected on some key phases in the game that his team failed to capitalize on at Galle and spoke of the need to take the game deep if they are to square the series.
“We lost some key phases in that game. We know it’s tough to play in Sub-continental conditions. For me it’s about taking it that little bit deeper, we had a few good starts in that first innings. We probably should’ve scored 350 in that innings. We just let Sri Lanka back into the game through those periods. We did those sort of things throughout the Test match which I think cost us. In these conditions, if you get yourself in you need to take the game as deep as possible.” Akila Dananjaya meanwhile, will enter the Test match under a cloud of scrutiny, having been reported (along with Kane Williamson) for a suspect bowling action at the end of the previous Test. The news comes as a blow for Dananjaya who was forced to remodel his action after having previously been banned from bowling by the ICC in December last year. Dananjaya will be required to submit to a biomechanics Test within 14 days of being reported (August 18) to assess the legality of his action. He risks facing a 1 year suspension if his action is once again found to be illegal. Dananjaya’s participation in today’s Test match however will not be affected, should Sri Lanka choose to field him in the starting XI.
As was in Galle, the weather forecast for the game is not the greatest but cricket fans will hope that any delays caused as a result will be minimal.