Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Colombo November 24, 2012

P Sara bounce could boost New Zealand

Match facts

November 25-29, 2012
Start time 1000 local (0430 GMT)

Big Picture

The second Test at the P Sara Oval finds the two teams heading in seemingly opposite directions. Sri Lanka had not won a Test series in three years until they defeated Pakistan at home in July, and if a manful recovery with the bat and ruthlessness with the ball in the Galle Test are any indication, they are a side who have reclaimed the fight they had misplaced following the 2011 World Cup and have begun to make winning a habit again. 

Sri Lanka's pace bowlers were effective on a dry surface, landing heavy blows on New Zealand's top order before Rangana Herath arrived to deliver the coup de grace. Herath himself continues to progress, having become the top wicket-taker in 2012 with his 11 wickets in Galle. Sri Lanka may also have uncovered a fast bowler with enough command of pace, seam and reverse swing to become a potential long-term spearhead in Shaminda Eranga. Their batting also seems less prone to the sporadic collapses that plagued them in the 12 months before the Pakistan series. 

New Zealand meanwhile, have slid to their worst losing streak since 1955. Their batsmen have been working on their technique against spin in the nets since their three-day loss, but even the two extra days may not be enough to rebound from a performance as woeful as their 118 all out in their second innings in Galle. Though they are short on time to vastly improve their techniques, they must acquire the psychological steel to survive at the crease for long periods against fine bowling. Their plight may not be as hopeless as it seems, as the bouncier P Sara pitch will assist their seam bowlers in the same way it assisted England's in March, when they squared their two-match series with Sri Lanka, after also losing the first match in Galle.

For Sri Lanka, this Test shapes as a doubly crucial fixture, as it may be their only real test before their first Test against Australia in Hobart. The considerable talent in New Zealand's fast bowling unit was evident in Galle, and with the Canberra pitch on which Sri Lanka are scheduled to play their only warm-up match having a reputation for being on the slow side, the bouncy Colombo venue might serve as an opportunity for the team to pre-tune their techniques before they land in Australia. It may also give the hosts the opportunity to settle on a first-choice seam-bowling unit for the Tests to come, or at least, a chance to gauge how effective Nuwan Kulasekara's new ball partnership with Eranga might be Down Under.

Form guide

Sri Lanka: WDDWL (Most recent first)
New Zealand: LLLLL

Player to watch

Doug Bracewell has been one of New Zealand's most consistent performers since making his debut just over a year ago, but he was unable to find the right length in Galle and went wicketless while his teammates prospered. But unlike Galle, the P Sara pitch often rewards hit-the-deck bowling and Bracewell's back-of-a-length seamers may be more effective this time round.

Suraj Randiv was put under some pressure by chief selector Ashantha de Mel, who said his place in the XI might be under threat if he does not have a good first Test. He too was less successful than his teammates in the first Test, despite bowling some tight spells, but the selectors seem to have backed him in the end, naming him in the squad to Australia as the second spinner. Sri Lanka are unlikely to leave him out in Colombo unless the pitch is uncharacteristically green, and a bagful of wickets there will do his confidence some good. 

Teams news

Tillakaratne Dilshan has been passed fit and Dimuth Karunaratne will make way for him. Karunaratne's second innings 60 in Galle has put some pressure on Tharanga Paranavitana though and Paranavitana will be keen to embed himself in that second opener's spot, which is the only position in the Sri Lanka batting order that isn't nailed down at present. 

Kulasekara and Eranga are the likely new-ball pair, and Chanaka Welegedara will only play if a third seamer is deemed necessary. 

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

Tim Southee, whose terrific second-day spell breathed life into the first Test, is also doubtful for the second. New Zealand have two more seam bowlers in their ranks, but have said legspinner Todd Astle might get a debut - particularly if Southee cannot play.

James Franklin had a woeful first Test with the bat, as epitomised by his 44-ball 3 in the first innings, and New Zealand may consider dropping him to play five bowlers.

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

Pitch and conditions

The Colombo weather has largely held over the past week or so, and the only showers have been in the evening. A little more rain is forecast for the coming week, but if it follows the recent pattern, it may not have a major effect on the cricket. However, being November, there is always the chance of a front moving in and bedding down.

Stats and trivia

  • The victory in Galle was Sri Lanka's fourth Test win since Muttiah Muralitharan retired in July 2010
  • Before the Mumbai Test between England and India began, Rangana Herath was leading Graeme Swann by one wicket in 2012, with 46 victims. Herath had played four fewer Tests
  • Tim Southee's has an average of 26.23 for 2012, while his career average is 37.85. He has more wickets (17) and a better economy rate (3.16) this year than in any preceding calendar year
  • The P Sara Oval has had only one draw since 1993, but New Zealand were involved in that occasion in 2003, when Stephen Fleming hit an unbeaten 274.


"We're not thinking we can't compete with them. We think we can win this Test match and that's what we're going out to do. Everyone needs to step up, learn from what happened in Galle and move forward."

Tim Southee on what New Zealand aim to achieve in Colombo

" We will definitely look to keeping the Kiwis under pressure as they have the firepower with both bat and ball so there's no room for any complacency."

Mahela Jayawardene isn't letting his team take it easy

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka