New Zealand will be having a deja vu moment when they take the field for the second Test against Sri Lanka at the P Sara Oval on Thursday (August 22). The last time they toured the island nation for a Test series, they were in a similar sort of position – lost the first game in Galle; Sri Lanka chased down a fourth innings target convincingly and they were trailing 1-0 in the series.
Kane Williamson would want the rest of the script to pan out exactly like it did in 2012 New Zealand went on to win the second Test and draw the series 1-1. It was also a Test where Williamson and Ross Taylor scored hundreds. In fact, the latter was the Player of the Match for his knocks of 142 and 74. The visitors need their two most experienced batsmen to lead the way to not only draw the series, but also to get their first points in the Test Championship. All eyes will be on Williamson who ended up with single-digit scores in each innings of a Test for the first time in two years.
The other factor to consider is when the last time New Zealand played at the P Sara Oval, the pace duo of Tim Southee and Trent Boult shared 15 wickets. Generally, the track at the venue offers assistance to all kinds of bowlers, but New Zealand will hope it has a lot more on offer than the one in Galle, which got slower as the game progressed. It might also put them in a dilemma in relation to picking the same combination that they selected for the first Test – two seamers and three spinners – or add an extra pacer in Neil Wagner.
Sri Lanka have won their last three Tests and two of those have been chasing targets in excess of 250 in the fourth innings. They have found new heroes each time a stiff challenge was thrown at them. If it was Kusal Perera’s once-in-a-lifetime innings in Durban that powered them to a historic win, then Dimuth Karunaratne led from the front with 122 in Galle. Sri Lanka have battled through some very tough situations and winning a series against the number two ranked Test team will not only help them get 60 points in the Test Championship, but also boost their morale going forward in the competition.
There were some bold choices made as far as the selection was concerned for the Galle Test. Lahiru Thirimanne was persisted with even though he had not scored a fifty since making his comeback to the Test team, earlier in the year. Niroshan Dickwella’s current form was preferred over Oshada Fernando’s runs in South Africa. Both batsmen repaid the faith by scoring crucial fifties.
Akila Dananjaya, one of the heroes in the Galle Test, has been reported again for a suspect action even after remodelling it, but that should not deter Sri Lanka from picking him. He took over the leadership of the attack in the absence of Dilruwan Perera, and Karunaratne looked up to him whenever he needed wickets in the first Test. Young Lasith Embuldeniya, playing only his third Test, provided the ideal foil for Dananjaya. Sri Lanka would want the duo, along with Dhananjaya de Silva, to continue their good form.
When: Thursday, August 22, 10:00 AM local time, 10:00 AM IST
Where: P Sara Oval, Colombo
What to expect: Thunderstorms are expected on all five days of the Test. But the weather in Sri Lanka is always fickle and cannot be trusted. The ones who can be trusted are the groundsmen who work hard to ensure not much of play is lost due to heavy rains. Usually, the groundsmen in the island nation don’t just cover the pitch and the square, but also around 80% of the field in quick time. The surface at the P Sara Oval offers something for everyone. New Zealand’s pacers picked up 17 wickets last time they played at the ground.
Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka went with Thirimanne and Dickwella instead of Chandimal or Fernando and both delivered with respective fifties. Dananjaya’s action is once again under scrutiny, but he will be able to play this game before undergoing the test. Dilruwan Perera has been added to the squad but might not make it to the final XI, unless they drop Lahiru Kumara and go for an all-out spin attack.
Probable XI: Dimuth Karunaratne (C), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Embuldeniya
New Zealand: Kane Williamson went in with three recognised spinners and the trusted pair of Southee and Boult in Galle. Though Southee contributed with the bat, New Zealand may look to bring in Neil Wagner, who in turn provides a different dimension to the attack. The batting more or less remains the same as there are not many options on the bench.
Probable XI: Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee/Neil Wagner, William Somerville, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel
New Zealand (From): Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson(c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling(w), Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, William Somerville, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel, Todd Astle, Tom Blundell, Colin de Grandhomme, Neil Wagner
Sri Lanka (From): Dimuth Karunaratne(c), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella(w), Akila Dananjaya, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lahiru Kumara, Oshada Fernando, Dinesh Chandimal, Lakshan Sandakan, Vishwa Fernando, Dilruwan Perera