Solid Sri Lanka remain favourites
August 26-30, 2009
Start time 10.00am (04.30 GMT)
The Big Picture
Over the past year, debate about the top teams in Test cricket has usually centred on three teams: Australia, South Africa and India. Sri Lanka are almost never mentioned but they now find themselves at No .2, thanks to a superb record over the past three-odd years during which they have lost only one series. To remain second, though, they need to defeat New Zealand (who haven't won any series against strong opposition in the same period) in Colombo.
After a shaky start in the first Test, Sri Lanka were handed the advantage by newly promoted opener Tillkaratne Dilshan's counter-attacking 92. A solid performance from the middle-order strengthened their grip, and New Zealand were left to play catch-up for the rest of the game. Sri Lanka's bowling unit, while not at its best, was disciplined and didn't dish up too many freebies.
In contrast New Zealand's bowlers leaked runs, with fast bowler Iain O'Brien and spinner Jeetan Patel having a particularly hard time. Captain Daniel Vettori has stressed the need for cutting off the runs and forcing the batsmen into risks. He will have the luxury of fielding a full-strength side after all his team-mates recovered from the stomach bug which laid them low midway through the first Test.
At a ground which is something of a fortress for Sri Lanka, the visitors need big performances from their two most talented batsmen, Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor, if they are to make a fight of it. Else, the pressure will start to mount on coach, Andy Moles (who along with Vettori is now in the selection panel), under whom New Zealand have yet to win a Test.
Test form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka - WDWWD
New Zealand - LDDLD
Watch out for ...New Zealand's opener Tim McIntosh isn't likely to provide a dashing start like Dilshan but his patient vigil in the first innings - sticking around for nearly five hours -was just what a fragile top order needed. Importantly, he negotiated the spin threat of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis well.
Thilan Samaraweera is another batsman who isn't likely to set the pulse racing, but he is the second highest run-getter in Tests this year. A big century in the first innings at Galle put Sri Lanka in complete control, and when they were looking for quick runs in the second innings he smashed two sixes, as many as he had in 82 previous Test knocks.
Team newsA hamstring injury has ruled Angelo Mathews out of the match, and Sri Lanka will replace him with either batsman Chamara Kapugedera or left-arm spinner Rangana Herath. Kumar Sangakkara hasn't ruled out a triple-spin attack, but that would mean a very long tail for Sri Lanka. Opener Tharanga Paranavitana's place is also under scrutiny after his twin failures in Galle.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Tharanga Paranavitana/ Malinda Warnapura, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 7 Chamara Kapugedera/Rangana Herath, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Thilan Thushara, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan.
After O'Brien's forgettable performance in Galle, his place could be taken by fast bowler Daryl Tuffey, who last played a Test in 2004.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Tim McIntosh, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Daniel Flynn, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Jesse Ryder, 6 Brendon McCullum (wk), 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Jeetan Patel, 10 Iain O'Brien/Daryl Tuffey, 11 Chris Martin.
Pitch and conditionsSangakkara's statement, "We would love to play three spinners on this track," sums up how this pitch is expected to play. Traditionally, though, it isn't a pitch that turns into a minefield; in the four of previous six Tests teams have ended the final day on 391 for 4, 250 for 3, 474, and 337 for 4.
The weather forecast for the game isn't too good, with heavy rain expected through the week.
Stats and trivia
- Sri Lanka have lost only one of their last fifteen Tests at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground
- After going past Derek Underwood's haul in the first Test, Daniel Vettori is the leading wicket-taker among left-arm spinners. He needs two more to complete the double of 3000 runs and 300 wickets
- Mahela Jayawardene's previous seven innings at the SSC: 82, 374, 127, 195, 136, 79, 2
Quotes"The number two position probably reflects how well we are playing, but we are not number one, and that means we have a lot more to achieve to get there."
Kumar Sangakkara isn't going to let any complacency creep in.
"We need to get beyond the 30s and 40s we are scoring now and get those 100s."
Daniel Vettori demands longer innings from his batsmen. New Zealand's line-up in the first Test had 18 centuries between them, less than what Jayawardene (26) and Sangakkara (19) have scored individually
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo