Sri Lanka's seniors key in their quest for a spot in WTC final

If there is some chance for SL to pull off an unlikely brace of victories in NZ, it is through their experience

Angelo Mathews: "We've got quite a lot of experience in New Zealand - myself, Dimuth [Karunaratne], and [Dinesh] Chandimal"  •  AFP/Getty Images

Angelo Mathews: "We've got quite a lot of experience in New Zealand - myself, Dimuth [Karunaratne], and [Dinesh] Chandimal"  •  AFP/Getty Images

In the last Test series in New Zealand, both sides very clearly went all-out for victory, because that is their Test-match identity. Sri Lanka can perhaps have claimed to have pioneered Bazball, before Baz was even a thing - the likes of Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya having blazed through the late 90s.
But right now, Sri Lanka are not a particularly attacking side considering what other teams are doing. And yet, in this series, they will likely push for wins, because there is a chance a 2-0 result in their favour will put them in the World Test Championshp final.
It's an outside chance. India will have to either lose or draw their last Test against Australia for Sri Lanka to even be in contention. There is no rain forecast in Ahmedabad, where the pitch tends to be dry. Australia would likely have to pull off another upset.
And then you come to Sri Lanka's own record in New Zealand. In 19 Tests in the country, they've only ever won two (in 2006, most recently). The probability seems remote.
Still, it feels like something of an achievement to even be in contention at this late stage. And it certainly is playing on the cricketers' minds. Here's New Zealand captain Tim Southee, two days out from the first Test, in Christchurch.
"I think Sri Lanka are still in the hunt to make the final of the World Test Championship and they've played some great cricket over the past two years to be in that position. For us, we know Sri Lanka are a very good side, and they've shown that - to be sitting near the top of the World Test Championship.
"They've got plenty to play for over the next two weeks. We're out of the Test Championship."
Sri Lanka's players have spoken about it too. In an interview with Michael Appleton, New Zealand's High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, captain Dimuth Karunaratne said this:
"It's must-win games for us, to be in the World Test Championship final. I don't want to put pressure on the boys, but everyone knows this is a must-win game for us to be in the World Test Championship.
"We're in the top-three right now, so we have one hurdle and everyone knows where we are now. The boys are working hard to win the two Test Championship final and pushing to be in that final."
If there is some chance for Sri Lanka to pull off an unlikely brace of victories, it is perhaps through their experience. Last time they were there, Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis batted out an entire day together (the first time a Sri Lankan pair had done this overseas, and the 19th time it had happened overall), to save a Test in Wellington. Both hit hundreds. Karunaratne has a century in Christchurch, and Chandimal has four fifties in nine innings.
The attack is much greener, but if the pitches are too, Sri Lanka have bowlers who could potentially trouble New Zealand's top order, so long as they stay fit through the game (looking at Lahiru Kumara in particular). But it'll be the batters who will likely have to lead the way. Angelo Mathews, who's played exactly 100 Tests now, is on his fourth Test tour of New Zealand.
"We've been playing our brand of cricket and we've got quite a lot of experience in New Zealand - myself, Dimuth, and Chandimal," he said. "We've played a few series and know the conditions quite well. It's a fresh series so we have to start of fresh again.
"There will be plenty of balls that will miss the bat, but you have to be positive and look for runs."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf