Having fought out of their skins to draw the Wellington Test, Sri Lanka will walk into Wednesday’s second Test in Christchurch brimming with confidence. It was in Christchurch that these two teams played a bitterly contested Test match 12 years ago that soured relationships between the teams for years.
Muttiah Muralitharan was run out after completing a single which gave Kumar Sangakkara his century. Having grounded his bat to complete the run, Murali turned back to congratulate the Sri Lankan vice-captain. But the ball was still alive and wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum dislodged the bails and ran out Murali, the last man to end Sri Lanka’s innings. Ten years later, delivering the MCC Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s, McCullum apologised to the Sri Lankans.
Much has changed since the run out incident which was condemned by all and sundry as it was against spirit of the game. All players involved in that game have retired from Test cricket. They don’t even play international cricket at Lancaster Park anymore, the ground that hosted New Zealand’s first ever Test match in 1930.
After the 2011 earthquake, international cricket in Christchurch was shifted to Hagley Park.
The conditions here will be more to the liking of New Zealand seamers than the flat deck at the Basin Reserve. New Zealand have won three of the five Tests played here. Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner have all featured heavily in those wins.
The Kiwis could give Matt Henry a break instead of Wagner at the Hagley Oval. Henry, who was the overseas player of English county Kent, had an outstanding season for them finishing with 75 wickets.
Had New Zealand clinched the series 2-0, they would have moved up to number two in official ICC Rankings. Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis ensured that it will not become a reality having batted for four sessions without being dismissed at the Basin Reserve.
A win in the second Test will give the Kiwis their fourth consecutive Test series win, something that they have never achieved in the history.
Sri Lanka could make a couple of changes for the game. They could bring in Lahiru Thirimanne in place of struggling opener Danushka Gunathilaka. Seamer Kasun Rajitha could be replaced by Dushmantha Chameera, the fastest among the Sri Lankan bowlers.
Young Mendis requires 59 runs more to complete 1000 runs in the calendar year. He is the third highest run getter this year with 941 runs in 21 innings at an average of 47, only behind Indian skipper Virat Kohli (1240) and England captain Joe Root (948).
A Sri Lankan features among the top wicket takers this year as well with Dilruwan Perera and Nathan Lyon having both claimed 48 wickets. Perera’s emergence as a wicket taking bowler has seen him taking over the mantle as the team’s main bowler since Rangana Herath retired.
It has been a tough year for Sri Lanka having suffered a 3-0 whitewash at home against England in November. The hammering saw some drastic changes being made to the coaching staff with fielding coach Manoj Abeywickrama and batting coach Tilan Samaraweera, both losing their jobs. They were replaced by Steve Rixon and Jon Lewis.
Sri Lanka will be looking to sign off 2018 on a positive note and a win in Christchurch will do a lot to cheer up their moral with challenging series against Australia and South Africa scheduled over the next six weeks.
Sri Lanka (From)
Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal(Captain), Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep, Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Lakshan Sandakan and Kasun Rajitha.
New Zealand (From)
Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson(Captain), Henry Nicholls, B.J. Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel, Matt Henry and Will Young.