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SL seek to end NZ win streak

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By Madushka Balasuriya 

Sri Lanka won their last Test assignment – it was a historic one too – in South Africa, but so much has happened since. New Zealand have had a different kind of high, and a heartbreak to boot, at the World Cup, but are determined to move on and make a fresh start in Sri Lanka, with the Tests part of the World Test Championship.

What’s certain is they won’t underestimate the hosts, even though they are yet to emerge from their forever-rebuilding state, under another interim coach. In Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, and Henry Nicholls they have a middle order more than capable of batting Sri Lanka out of the game. To bolster their batting unit, they have also recruited former Sri Lanka batting coach Thilan Samaraweera for the duration of the series.

“It’s been great really to look forward to this – the start of the Test Championship, coming away again as a group, albeit in the Test format. The guys have been really enjoying their time together back in camp after a week off after the World Cup,” said Kane Williamson of team morale, speaking on the eve of the game. 

Sri Lanka are coming into the series on the back of a comprehensive ODI series whitewash over Bangladesh. Prior to that, they finished a World Cup campaign that was nowhere near as bad as it could have been. All of it has taken place in the midst of constant backroom turmoil, culminating in head coach Chandika Hathurusingha being replaced in the interim by fast-bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake.

Yet, this Sri Lanka side under Dimuth Karunaratne has shown considerable mental resolve in recent months, especially with their batting, and while most teams would be unsettled by the loss of a coach days before a series, not many sides are as practiced at compartmentalising such chaos as Sri Lanka.

“We did our basics right in South Africa. That is what we need to do it here. We are in a good position now and we are excited to play tomorrow,” stated Karunaratne yesterday.

“We were too attacking perhaps in our last game here [in Galle against England]. We couldn’t for example stop the flow of runs. Now we have plans to move forward and all the spinners are in good shape.”

All things considered, though, New Zealand certainly have the edge. Yes, Sri Lanka have beaten South Africa and Australia at home in recent years, but that was with the assistance of the now retired Rangana Herath, and the injured Dilruwan Perera. Sri Lanka’s spin-bowling future in Tests still has heavy question marks around it. New Zealand meanwhile are coming on the back of five consecutive series wins, and it would take brave man to bet against them making it six.

Squads New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Colin de Grandhomme, Todd Astle, William Somerville, Mitchell Santner, Tom Blundell, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, B.J. Watling, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Ajaz Patel, Neil Wagner

Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Oshada Fernando, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando Umpire: Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth (England) Third umpire: Bruce Oxenford (Australia).

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