The Sunday Leader

Buoyant Lions Eyeing Whitewash Over Bemused Kiwis

  • Sri Lanka-New Zealand  SECOND Test – Preview

Rangana Herath – finally reaping the rewards of hard work

A confident Sri Lanka will face a bemused New Zealand side in the second and Final Test which begins at the P Sara Stadium today.

The hosts whose eyes are already focused on their tour of Australia in mid-December, will be keen to maintain the momentum they have now after their resounding 10-wicket victory inside three days in the first test in Galle last week.

New Zealand on the other hand will need to overcome their notorious inability to cope with spin and demonstrate more resolute batsmanshipagainst the Sri Lankan spinners in the second and final Test in Colombo from Sunday to save themselves the embarrassment of a record losing streak.

The defeat in the opening match in Galle on Monday was the fifth consecutive Test loss for the Kiwis, following two defeats each in the West Indies and India.The team is now perilously close to the ignominy of equaling the record for the most number of successive defeats in tests set 57 years ago. Between January 1954 and October 1955 New Zealand – then relative newcomers to the test arena – lost six Tests in a row.

Captain Ross Taylor came up with perhaps the understatement of the year when he said his team needed to solve their batting problems against spin, especially against left-arm spinner RanganaHerath who grabbed 11 wickets on a slow turning track in Galle.

“We need to come up with a plan on how we are going to combat Herath,” said Taylor. “We got to come up with a way of negating his

wicket-taking ability. “We need to pick ourselves up and give ourselves a big chance in the second match.”

Herath, who is once again expected to be their leading tormentor has finally come into his own after living many years in the shadow of

the legendary MuttiahMuralitharan and being content with the occasional game when the master spinner was injured or unavailable.

Herath has already taken 45 wickets in six home Tests, with two returns of over ten wickets in a test.

After winning a crucial toss and deciding to bat first, New Zealand made a below par 221 in their first innings and although they fought

back admirably to restrict the hosts they were guilty of not making the most of the opportunity of batting first.

The fact that the third day of the test began with both sides on even terms is some consolation for the Kiwis but their abject batting display

In their second innings was what turned the whole match dramatically in favour of the hosts.

The tourists will be encouraged with the performance of their fast bowlers, especially Tim Southee who bagged four quick wickets in the first innings to restrict Sri Lanka’s lead to just 26.It was their batsmen who let them down badly failing to build on their pacemen’s efforts in the second innings, setting the hosts a modest 93-run target which they reached without breaking a sweat.

The Kiwis did have their moments in the test – they had Sri Lanka on the ropes at 50-5 in their first innings before skipper MahelaJayawardena

(91) and vice-captain Angelo Mathews (79) steadied the slide and then built a good platform with a 156-run stand for the sixth wicket.

“This is what winning Test matches is all about, winning tough moments and getting ourselves into a winning position under pressure,” said Jayawardena.
Herath was not the only bowler to test the New Zealand batsmen as pacemenNuwanKulasekara and ShamindaEranga also struck at crucial stages, sharing seven wickets – a fact that would please Sri Lanka greatly – given the forthcoming tour to Australia with its pacey wickets.

Sri Lanka will be determined to wrap up the series with a win in Colombo and boost their confidence ahead of next month’s tough tour of Australia which is seen as the final frontier for our test team and presents the last opportunity for some of the veterans of the team to achieve that elusive test win on Australian soil.

In fact the only problem facing the hosts will be the composition of their final eleven and whether it should be picked purely to secure a win in the test and take the series 2-0 or whether it should be with the tour of Australia in mind. Debutant DimuthKarunaratne appears to have cemented his place and deserves another chance and if TillekeratneDilshan is fit then his opening partner TharangaParanavitana may be the one to lose out.

It may be worth playing the extra seamer and left armerChanakaWelagedera should get the nod ahead of off spinner SurajRandiv whose selection for the tour of Australia has already raised a few eyebrows.

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