Sri Lanka and the Black Caps of New Zealand begin their World Test Championship campaigns with a two-Test series on the Island that should be an intriguing contest.
New Zealand will need to find a way to combat the spin options of a Sri Lanka team who have played some good Test cricket in the last year.
Wednesday 14 August – Sunday 18 August 2019 | Galle International Stadium, Galle | 06:30
To Win Match
Sri Lanka 2/1
New Zealand 13/10
Sri Lanka have recalled former skipper Dinesh Chandimal to their squad for the first Test. Chandimal had fallen out of favour with management after a poor showing against Australia six months ago but has fought his way back into contention.
Current captain Dimuth Karunaratne faces a struggle to stamp his own style onto a Sri Lanka team who have enjoyed a mixed bag of results recently from an away win in South Africa to being whitewashed at home by England.
Akila Dananjaya comes back into the Test lineup for the first time since remodeling his action and being allowed to bowl in international cricket again.
While Chandimal offers an option as wicketkeeper it seems likely that Niroshan Dickwella will retain the gloves while being asked to fill a position in the lower-order.
Sri Lanka will also have to decide whether allrounder Dhananjaya De Silva’s spin will be sufficient back-up to Dananjaya or if Lakshan Sandakan will be afforded another opportunity to impress.
New Zealand will have to put their World Cup heartache behind them and switch into Test mode as they go in search of vital WTC points away from home.
The Black Caps will have to handle the spin of the Lankans but have also brought three tweakers of their own. Allrounder Mitchell Santner is a virtual certainty to start leaving Todd Astle and Ajaz Patel to duke it out for the remaining spot in the XI.
It could be a big series for Henry Nicholls in the middle-order as he looks to step out of the shadow of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor. Nicholls has shown himself capable of the kind of application necessary to make runs in Asia.
The pacemen will still have a job to do though it remains to be seen if the trio of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner will all be deployed in the first Test.
In three previous Tests at Galle New Zealand have suffered defeat each time but they will know that their hosts lost their last encounter at the venue when England visited last November.
Verdict: Sri Lanka 2/1
Home advantage should give Sri Lanka a big edge.