Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 1st Test, Galle November 16, 2012

Conditions key as New Zealand look to surprise Sri Lanka


Match facts

November 17-21, 2012
Start time 1000 local (0430 GMT)

Big Picture

The rains have relented slightly since the end of the ODI series, but during the monsoon that only means that the showers have been restricted to the afternoons in Galle. The teams will already feel they have seen more covers than the Bob Dylan back catalogue on this tour, but as November is still far from over, the weather is likely to remain a major factor during the first Test.

Sri Lanka will want nothing less than a 2-0 repeat of New Zealand's last Test tour, and their formula for victory in Galle has been a simple one over the years: bat first, bat big, and then let the spinners loose on one of the fastest-wearing Test surfaces anywhere. Each team has a slew of Test specialists arriving, and with Thilan Samaraweera and Prasanna Jayawardene bolstering Sri Lanka's middle order, New Zealand's bowlers will know they are no longer facing the "top heavy" batting unit they were up against in the limited-overs matches.

The hosts will also see this match as the first outing in the lead-up to their tour of Australia - their biggest Test assignment in a while. Given that they are unlikely to encounter anything like the Galle pitch there (at least, not until they reach Sydney for the final Test) this match will probably be less of a test of their technique, as it is an opportunity for Sri Lanka's Test side to build some momentum before they encounter the bouncier pitches at the P Sara Oval and beyond.

New Zealand meanwhile, will hope that the rain around will give their fast bowlers more to work with than a Galle surface would typically offer them. If this is the case, the toss will become less important, as the team batting first may have a difficult first session to negotiate. The evening rains might also freshen up the surface for each morning, and as fast bowling is the only area in which New Zealand outgun the hosts, the weather may give them the opportunity they need to cause an upset.

Their batsmen however, will need to show more mettle than they did in India, if they are to compete. Ross Taylor has spoken of Sri Lanka's attack as an obvious weakness, but they underestimate Rangana Herath at their peril, and 31 wickets to Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin in their last Test series suggests New Zealand are not as comfortable against spin as Taylor seems to believe.

Form guide

Sri Lanka: DDWLW (Most recent first)
New Zealand: LLLLD

Player to watch

Chanaka Welegedara has been out with injury since March this year, but he will want to re-establish himself as the pace-bowling spearhead in this series. His Test average remains above 40, but his returns in 2011 were more encouraging, and suggest that he is an improving cricketer. Sri Lanka need him to build into some form and have a good few months, if they are to compete in Australia.

Jeetan Patel had played only two Tests in two years before New Zealand's tour of India - a tour in which he performed creditably, particularly in the first Test. Thanks to Daniel Vettori's continued absence, he will again be New Zealand's frontline spinner, and with conditions likely to suit him later in the match, the visitors will look to him for breakthroughs. He will have to overcome the memory of a poor record in Sri Lanka though: in two matches there, he averages 55.6.

Teams news

Tillakaratne Dilshan has not recovered from his back injury, which means left-hand batsman Dimuth Karunaratne has been brought into the squad, and will get a Test debut. Sri Lanka's major selection conundrum is who their second seam bowler will be. Nuwan Kulasekara had a decent return to Test cricket against Pakistan, but Shaminda Eranga seems the better long-term option for Sri Lanka, as he has both height and speed over Kulasekara, though he cannot swing the ball as prodigiously.

Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Tharanga Paranavitana, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Suraj Randiv, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara/Shaminda Eranga, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Chanaka Welegedara

New Zealand also have decisions to make around their attack, having shipped five specialist Test bowlers in to join Tim Southee and Trent Boult, who played in the ODIs. They have uncapped legspinner Todd Astle in their ranks, but they will not hesitate to play to their strengths and name only one spinner in their XI if the pitch appears to offer anything for the seam bowlers. Among the quicks, Southee is an almost certain starter, meaning Neil Wagner, Chris Martin, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell will compete for the remaining two spots. Bracewell and Boult are the obvious frontrunners, but Martin provides experience on a potentially difficult pitch.

Martin Guptill returns to the team, after being rested for the ODIs.

New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor (capt), 5 Daniel Flynn, 6 James Franklin, 7 Kruger van Wyk (wk), 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Jeetan Patel, 11 Trent Boult/Chris Martin

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka have won 11 matches, lost four and drawn five in Galle
  • Mahela Jayawardene has made over one fifth of his 10,540 runs in Galle, and averages 75.60 there
  • New Zealand last won a Test in Sri Lanka in May 1998


"We don't have to contend with Muralitharan and it's always a nice thing to not have to contend with him. We've still got to play well ourselves and concentrate on what we can do well. But definitely their bowling line-up is an area we can target."
Ross Taylor on what he believes is a weakened Sri Lanka attack since New Zealand last played them in Tests

"It looks like this pitch will only become helpful for the spinners on the last two days. Until then, it should be a good surface and it should have something in it for the fast bowlers as well."
Mahela Jayawardene on how he expects this Galle pitch to play

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • nirav on November 17, 2012, 2:26 GMT

    NZ only can surprise BD....

  • Steve on November 17, 2012, 2:25 GMT

    I agree with the comment on BJ Watling, unfortunately he was not in the NZ test squad and has gone home.

  • Yoker on November 17, 2012, 1:11 GMT

    I beleive SL can choose a better team Dananjaya should have been given a chance to test his skill. Chandimal should have been given a chnace to bat 1 down. and most importantly Perera should have been given a chance to open and learn to stay in the crease and give SL a start.. only if i was the team elector I'm sure Arajuna Ranathunga would even agree with me coz he is a the only captain to who had the odacity to pick his team and shuffle them according to their potential. suffice to say i hate politics in a sport.

  • Simon on November 16, 2012, 21:50 GMT

    Hate to say it but the selection of the NZ batting looks to have weakened them, Nichol should not be there with Watling in such good form and I imagine McCullum will be a soft spot if selected at the top of the order, the seamers will have to step up if NZ want a chance of winning

  • Ranga on November 16, 2012, 21:00 GMT

    Since this is Galle chances are Sri Lanka will play 2 spinners as they have Angelo Mathews in the wings as well.. Keeping the upcoming Australian tour in mind and as well as more importantly the future of Sri Lanka's Test Cricket I think it would be best served if they decided to give Shaminda Eranga a chance. SL won't play much tests in 2013 and in comparison they are a playing a buck-load of ODI's and they would want to keep their frontline seamer Kulasekera fit and healthy and wouldn't want to waste him on a tough Galle pitch..Sure if the 3rd seamer is needed and Kulasekera is a certain option but considering lot of facts my guess would be Sri Lanka will play Welagedera and Eranga as their seam options.

    Karunaratne, Paranavitana, Sangakkara, Jayawardena, Samaraweera, Mathews, Prasanna J, Randiv, Eranga, Herath, Welegedara

    would be the starting XI i would pick for Galle test.

  • Johnathon on November 16, 2012, 20:24 GMT

    Huge mistakes in the bowling department. Randiv has not been up to standard. Would like to see Senanayake given a chance and Dhanajaya to play some first class matches to get some experience. Eranga is a good pick, but Kulasekera and Welegedera must also be in the side. Thissara Perera is always a must for the Test side, especially after he showed that burst against Pakistan on a flat wicket. If Chandimal replaced Tharanga/Dimuth and wicketkeeped, Perera could come in the side.

  • Uwaisul on November 16, 2012, 19:05 GMT

    Only motivation factors for Ross Taylor are the rain & Murali not playing anymore. This tells what an impact the legend has made for Sri Lankan cricket. But I don't know why Taylor under estimates Herath? Let's see how NZ will play against spin (even without Murali). Hope Shaminda Eranga will get a chance.

  • vigi on November 16, 2012, 15:49 GMT

    Dimuth won't get a chance. Chandimal should play!!

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2012, 15:08 GMT

    if chandimal can open in one dayers why not in tests..get him in ...he is the most consistent player in our team..

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2012, 14:57 GMT

    want to see sanga becoming the fastest ever to 10,000 mark..that will be proud moment for all teh sri lankans...all the best..

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