<
>
Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Pace-friendly P Sara in focus as Sri Lanka eye 2-0

Kane Williamson throws his head back in despair Associated Press

Big Picture

Chaos has been a constant in Sri Lankan cricket in 2019. Captaincy change - check; coach sacking - check; interim committee - check; sports ministry interference - check; contract terminations - check.

Yet, quite incredibly, Sri Lanka are on a three-match winning streak in Tests, on the verge of consecutive Test series wins against South Africa and New Zealand. If results go their way in the Ashes, they could end up above either Australia or England in the Test rankings.

Team selection and captaincy quandaries don't seem such a big issue anymore as the selectors have seemingly stumbled upon a winning combination. A broken clock is indeed right twice a day. What does this mean for New Zealand?

A series that began as a nice little warm-down from the emotionally and physically draining madness that was the World Cup final is now in must-win territory, with 60 World Test Championship points at stake. This isn't to question New Zealand's professionalism, but merely an indication of the resolve and fight shown by the hosts.

New Zealand however do have history in their corner. They won at the P Sara Oval in 2012 to record their first Test win in Sri Lanka in 14 years. Their only other game here was drawn. Add to this, Sri Lanka have won less than half their matches at this ground.

Both Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor registered tons in that 2012 win, and with the captain having had an underwhelming outing in Galle, he is due a big score. On a surface that is likely to offer more pace and bounce, Sri Lanka's top order will also need to be more wary of the visitors' pace threat.

Form guide

Sri Lanka WWWLD (last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand LWWWD

In the spotlight

Trent Boult picked up seven wickets in his only match at the P Sara Oval. Having already troubled Sri Lanka's batsmen on as pace averse a pitch as possible in Galle, he'll be licking his lips at the prospect of squaring up to Sri Lanka's top order again.

Dimuth Karunaratne could not have asked for a better start to his Test career as captain. Three wins out of three, and a team that is fast gelling under his leadership. But he will know better than most how fragile a foundation this new found success has been built on. On a surface on which scores in excess of 400 and sub-200 are all possibilities, Karunaratne's guiding hand at the top of the order will be crucial to the overall productivity of Sri Lanka's batsmen.

Team news

Fit again, Dilruwan Perera will very likely come into the side in place of the still green Lasith Embuldeniya.

Sri Lanka: 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), 2 Lahiru Thirimanne, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella (wk) 7 Dhananjaya De Silva, 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Akila Dananjaya 10 Lahiru Kumara 11 Suranga Lakmal

For New Zealand, fast bowler Neil Wagner could come in, though it remains to be seen if it'll be at the expense of one of the spinners or the quicks.

New Zealand: 1 Jeet Raval, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Ajaz Patel, 9 Will Somerville/Neil Wagner, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Tim Southee

Pitch and conditions

The pitch traditionally has more in it for the quicks, with a fair amount of pace and bounce, and back-bending effort is more often than not rewarded. However if the rain stays away and the pitch dries up, expect the spinners to come into play as the Test wears on.

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka's Test record of nine wins and seven losses at the P Sara Oval is their second worst at any home venue with at least 10 matches played, the worst being at Asgiriya in Kandy (seven wins, nine losses)

  • The win in Galle meant Sri Lanka won three successive Tests chasing for the first time in their history

  • Currently placed second in the rankings, New Zealand will drop a place (or places, based on results in the Ashes) if they don't level the series

  • With 972 runs, Kane Williamson needs a further 56 to become the second-highest run scorer in bilateral ties between the two sides, going past Mahela Jayawardene. Stephen Fleming tops the list with 1166 runs

Quotes

"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."
Niroshan Dickwella knows a thing or two about the P Sara pitch

"In these conditions if you get yourself in you need to keep going and take the game as deep as possible. We're probably guilty of that throughout the [first] Test match. Hopefully we can go a lot bigger here."
BJ Watling rues letting the initiative slip in the first Test

Sri Lanka 3rd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st0MDKJ PereraHDRL Thirimanne
2nd4MDKJ PereraBKG Mendis
3rd7AD MathewsBKG Mendis
4th11DM de SilvaBKG Mendis
5th10N DickwellaBKG Mendis
6th41FDM KarunaratneN Dickwella
7th2MDK PereraN Dickwella
8th40RAS LakmalN Dickwella
9th3N DickwellaL Embuldeniya
10th4CBRLS KumaraL Embuldeniya