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December 6, 2006
Sri Lanka may look the better side on paper ahead of the first Test at Christchurch - with New Zealand missing bowlers Kyle Mills, Michael Mason and allrounder Scott Styris to injury - but their poor away record may go against them.
Since May 2004, Sri Lanka have won six Tests out of the 16 they have played away from home - two each against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, while one each against Pakistan and England. They lost 1-0 to New Zealand when they visited the country in 2004-05 - an innings defeat at Wellington where Lou Vincent made 224, his highest score in Test cricket.
"Our record in that area isn't as good as we'd like it to be in that area," the Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody told the New Zealand Herald. "But we did pretty well in England and we're looking forward to making more progress in New Zealand."
Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka's wicketkeeper-batsman, said what the team had to do was quickly adapt to the conditions that they were to play in. "With the volume of cricket we've played [England, South Africa and the Champions Trophy] and the conditions we've been through, we've adapted very well. Right now the guys have no complaints. The thing is to stay positive, choose the right ball in the right zones and commit 100 per cent to scoring off them."
Sangakkara did not keep wickets in Sri Lanka's tour match against Otago, the gloves instead being handed over to Prasanna Jayawardene, who had stood behind the stumps for the two Tests against South Africa at home in July this year. While Upul Tharanga, the Sri Lankan opening batsman, got a century against Otago, Sanath Jayasuriya, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Sangakkara managed half-centuries in the drawn match. Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas sat out the game.
New Zealand are certainly not taking the two-Test series easily. "We beat them quite comprehensively [in 2004-05] but it's probably not a true reflection of the side they are at the moment," said Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand left-arm spinner. "The last time we saw them they were probably at the start of an upward curve."
Chris Lewis, the turf manager of Jade Stadium, said that the pitch will favour batsmen. "If the seamers get to bowl first on it they'll like it but after a couple of days it will flatten out and keep going and going," Lewis told the Stuff website. But Shane Bond, the New Zealand fast bowler, was sceptical that the pitch would offer assistance to the bowlers on the first two days. "The Waikari [soil] can be deceiving," said Bond. "I've turned up to games here where it's green and you've won the toss and its done nothing."
With Mills and Mason out, Bond is likely to partner with Iain O'Brien for the new ball.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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