New Zealand vs Sri Lanka: First Test Preview

Written by Jason Dewey for @HollywoodbetsFollow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

New Zealand vs Sri Lanka | Thursday 9 Dec - Sunday 13 Dec | University Oval | Dunedin

Sri Lanka will begin their month-long tour of New Zealand in earnest when the two sides go head to head in the first of two Tests at the University Oval in Dunedin on Thursday.

To Win Match
New Zealand 6/10
Draw  11/10
Sri Lanka 6/1

New Zealand
New Zealand will head into this first Test after a solid showing in their three-match series in Australia. Although they were comprehensively beaten in the first game of that tour by 208 runs, the Black Caps showed why they’re so highly regarded after fighting back to draw the second Test. They put in a spirited display in the third, narrowly losing by three wickets.

The Black Caps' management have decided to keep faith in Martin Guptill and Mark Craig who both struggled to make an impact in Australia. In six innings, Guptill only managed a top score of 23 while Craig only bagged eight wickets in three games at an average of 64. The off-spinner was also punished by the belligerent Australian top order, going for more than five an over throughout the series.

Mike Hesson will also be looking for more from his much-hyped three-pronged pace attack. Trent Boult, Dougie Bracewell and Tim Southee struggled to match their Australian counterparts in conditions that really should have suited their game. They may feel more comfortable at home though, as the ball tends to swing a lot more in New Zealand than Australia – and with plenty of cloud cover expected during the first Test in Dunedin, it looks as though they'll get plenty of lateral movement through the air.

The side will be captained by Brendon McCullum who will look to be at his confrontational best, taking the attack to the Sri Lankan bowlers. He will be supported by Williamson and Ross Taylor, who both played well in their recent tour of Australia - the former further living up to his billing of being one of the best batsmen in the world.

Sri Lanka 
Sri Lanka will be concerned with how poorly they played in a three-day warm up game against the New Zealand President’s XI last week. A poor first innings total of 193 could have been a lot worse had it not been for Dimuth Karumaratne’s 93. Another concern for the Sri Lankan management will have been the visitors’ inability to wrap up the tail, with an eighth-wicket partnership between Tim Johnston and Shawn Hicks effectively taking Sri Lanka out of the game.

Although you normally can’t read too much into these warm up games, there will still be major concerns for Angelo Matthews and his side as they take on the ever-improving Black Caps.

Udara Jayasundera will be hoping to grab himself a Test debut on Wednesday after his gutsy 216-minute 63 in the second innings against the invitational side. The young opener has been in fine fettle domestically, scoring 842 runs at 64.76 for the Ragama Cricket Club in First Class cricket.

There may well also be a debut in line for 25-year-old Jeffery Vandersay. The wrist-spinner will give Matthews a fantastic attacking option with one of the regular front-line spinners, Rangana Herath or Dilruwan Perera, holding down the other end.

Kaushal Silva was perhaps the surprise exclusion from the squad with many Sri Lankan fans left scratching their heads at the decision to leave the opener out. Silva, who averages 32 with the bat in Test cricket, has struggled for form of late achieving only two 50+ scores in his last 13 innings at both Test and First Class levels.

Sri Lanka’s success in this series will likely hinge on how well their quicks exploit the conditions in Dunedin come Wednesday. Dushmantha Chameera, Dhammika Prasad, Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal will need to bet at their best if they’re going to trouble Williamson and co.

The Venue
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful Test venue anywhere around the world. The University Oval in Dunedin is beautiful tree-lined ground with a quaint pavilion and a grandstand at one end. There are plenty of grass banks for spectators who often turn out in good numbers to support the national team.

The wicket usually has a bit of green tinge to it so it should assist the quicks a lot more than the spinners. Overhead conditions will likely mean that the ball will move around quite a bit. Batting could be become even more difficult if the wind picks up as the open relatively open stadium provides very little protection from gusts of wind. Bear in mind that there may be a bit of rain around, nothing too drastic though.

Verdict: Kane Williamson Top New Zealand 1st Innings Batsman 7/5
I don’t think the Sri Lankans have what it takes to beat New Zealand outside of the Sub-Continent at the moment. Everything points to a straight-forward enough home victory, however, at 6/10 there’s not much value there. Instead, back the imperious Kane Williamson to top score for the hosts at 7/5. 

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