Green pitch set to test inexperienced SL
December 18-22, 2015
Start time 1030 local (2130 GMT)
New Zealand have quicks who can scythe through top orders in seaming conditions. They have bowlers who can grind out oppositions on flat decks. Their batsmen can thrash their way to big scores in the sun, but there is also grit enough to overturn difficult match situations. Having been on the receiving end of each of these phenomena over the past year, Sri Lanka might be wondering just what they have to do to beat New Zealand at home. Across two tours, the visitors are now 0-3. None of the results were close.
New Zealand appear as strong as ever in the approach to the Hamilton Test. Batsmen who had scored poorly in Australia found runs in Dunedin, and the seam attack is in excellent shape. The only quick who seems a little out of sorts is Trent Boult, but even he is finding ways to get wickets. If the Hamilton pitch is as seam-friendly as Sri Lanka fear, the hosts may play four quicks again. Offspinner Mark Craig, whose recent form has been one of New Zealand's few concerns, may not be exposed.
Defeated and depleted, Sri Lanka have nothing to do but march on, hoping that someone will summon one of those sublime spells or innings that sometimes inspires them to unexpected wins. Dinesh Chandimal seemed the most settled of the Sri Lanka batsmen, but the team needs their captain to contribute a major score. In the past two years, Angelo Mathews has rarely let his team down, even if they haven't always returned the favour.
Rangana Herath's threat may be muted by the Seddon Park surface, but there is a chance a greentop will narrow the gap between the two seam attacks. Nuwan Pradeep can be especially effective in seaming conditions, and has made substantial contributions to away victories in the past two years. With Dushmantha Chameera's raw pace and Mathews' control also on offer, the visitors have an attack that could conceivably take 20 wickets. Therein lies their major hope.
(last five matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: WLDLW
Sri Lanka: LWWLL
In the spotlight
Like many teams, New Zealand have searched for a stable opening pair for the past few years. Most recently, Martin Guptill has had another stint in the role. He shone white hot in Dunedin with 202 runs in the match, but though Guptill has struck outstanding innings in the past, he has sometimes struggled to keep the flame alive for long periods. The pitch at Seddon Park will be a Test for openers in both sides, but even beyond this match, Guptill may have to prove he can be a more regular contributor to the Test side.
Dimuth Karunaratne prospered in the first innings at Dunedin by scaling back his off-side strokeplay and awaiting the hittable straight balls. He was Sri Lanka's highest scorer in the match, but following that game captain Angelo Mathews had said Sri Lanka might have been better served by a more aggressive mindset. Of the men in the current top order, Karunaratne has the best record in New Zealand. It remains to be seen whether he will stand by the approach that has brought him success, or embrace a more expansive outlook.
Sri Lanka will be tempted to play Kaushal Silva on this pitch, but Angelo Mathews said his team was likely to be unchanged.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Kusal Mendis, 3 Udara Jayasundera, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5 Angelo Mathews (capt.), 6 Kithuruwan Vithanage, 7 Milinda Siriwardana, 8 Rangana Herath, 9 Dushmantha Chameera, 10 Suranga Lakmal,11 Nuwan Pradeep
Kane Williamson has confirmed that New Zealand will play an unchanged XI in Hamilton.
New Zealand: 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Brendon McCullum (capt.), 6 Mitchell Santner, 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Trent Boult,
Pitch and conditions
Aside from the thick green veneer, the strip that will be used for this match is comprised of Patumahoe soil, which is known to be conducive to bounce and pace. Fine conditions are forecast for the duration of the Test match, with temperatures expected to be in the low 20-degrees Celsius range.
Stats and trivia
- None of the last three games played at Seddon Park has gone into the fifth day. New Zealand lost two matches inside three days against Pakistan and South Africa, and defeated West Indies on the fourth day in 2013.
- Kane Williamson became just the second New Zealand batsman to 1000 Test runs in a calendar year in Dunedin. His tally currently sits at 1063. If he scores 102 runs in the match, he will overtake Brendon McCullum's 2014 returns to hold the New Zealand record for most runs in any year.
- New Zealand have now been unbeaten in 12 consecutive home matches. If they win or draw the next match, they will equal their longest unbeaten home streak, which had stretched from 1987 to 1991.
- Dushmantha Chameera was comfortably the fastest bowler in either team in Dunedin, hitting speeds of 146 kph.
"We're playing the same team as the last match. By the look of the surface, we will go in with that extra seamer. It's green. Dunedin was green. We just feel it might be more suited to seam bowling."
Kane Williamson on the thinking behind New Zealand's team composition
"It's about being able to compete. We were nowhere near the New Zealanders in the first Test, and we've got to go out there and enjoy our cricket."
Angelo Mathews sums up his team's plight
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando