New Zealand will contest a short two-Test series in Sri Lanka starting from 17th November. The Black Caps hardly seem to be playing more than two Tests in an away series nowadays, which is unfortunate and disappointing. Nonetheless, New Zealand will be looking to upset the hosts to win their first series in the Emerald Isles since 1983-84.
The series will kick off at Galle, where the first Test will be played from November 21-25. The Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) in Colombo, which is known to produce extremely placid wickets, will host the second and final Test from November 25-29. Incidentally, these were also the venues when the two teams last played a Test series – Sri Lanka winning the 2-Test series 2-0 in 2009. While the last three Tests at Galle have all produced results, the last three at the SSC have all been drawn.
Head To Head and Recent Record
The two teams have played each other 26 times in Tests, New Zealand having a slight advantage – winning 9 to Sri Lanka’s 7, with 10 games being draws. However in Sri Lanka, the hosts have the better record, winning 5, losing 3 and drawing 5 out of 13 Tests. Sri Lanka had a comfortable 2-0 victory at home in a 2-Test series in 2009, the last time the teams met each other. Before that, the two teams played series in New Zealand in 2004-05 and 2006-07, the home team winning and drawing the series respectively. The last time New Zealand won a Test in Sri Lanka was in 1998, when they lost the series 1-2 after being 1-0 up. Out of Sri Lanka’s 5 Test wins at home, 3 have come at the SSC and 2 at Galle.
Form Book and Ranking
Sri Lanka, currently ranked 6th won a Test series after 3 years when they beat Pakistan 1-0 in July 2012 at home. The 2011-12 season in particular was difficult for them, as they lost in England and South Africa, to Pakistan in the UAE and to Australia at home, before drawing at home against England. All of Sri Lanka’s series wins (excluding Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and the Asian Championship) since 1999-00 (when they won in Pakistan) have come at home. On the other hand, the New Zealanders are ranked 8th, and they have been in poor form for quite some time now. They have lost away to West Indies and India this season, and at home to South Africa late last season, with their only silver lining being last season’s drawn series in Australia last summer, besides wins over Zimbabwe at home and away. Their last away series win (excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) was back in 2002, when they won in the West Indies.
Players To Watch Out For
Angelo Mathews is the one genuine all-rounder in the Sri Lankan team and even though most of his successes have come in the limited-overs game, he has the knack of picking crucial wickets and scoring vital runs with the lower order. If at all the big guns at the top fail, Sri Lanka can always bank upon this reliable performer, who is also the vice-captain, to stand up to the task. In the absence of Daniel Vettori, off spinner Jeetan Patel will be the leader of the visitor’s spin attack. With the pitches conducive to spin and the Kiwi pace attack not really a threat, expect him to shoulder most of the bowling repsonsbility. He proved he can be effective when he gave a scare to India in the last Test he played at Bangalore. Jeetan Patel will have a big role to play as leader of the Black Caps spin attack
Rain has often been a threat during this time of the year in Sri Lanka, and the ongoing ODI series has also been considerably affected by the weather. Considering that rain will have to play a part in the Test series as well, my prediction is a 1-0 win for Sri Lanka, with rain ensuring at least one draw.