Sri Lanka were handed a 0-2 whitewash in the Test series in their tour of New Zealand earlier this year © Getty Images
Sri Lanka were handed a 0-2 whitewash in the Test series in their tour of New Zealand earlier this year © Getty Images

New Zealand and Sri Lanka face off in a Test series for the second time this year, with the first Test between the two sides slated to begin on Thursday, December 10. New Zealand, who had completed a 2-0 whitewash in the previous meeting in December-January, are favourites to continue their winnings ways on home soil, where they have not played since ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. Sri Lanka have been hit by string of bad news, with Kusal Perera failing a dope ban and pace spearhead Dhammika Prasad been ruled out of the series due to back problems. It is therefore highly crucial for the visitors to get their playing XI balanced ahead of the series opener, which we have tried to predict below. LIVE CRICKET SCORECARD: New Zealand vs Sri Lanka 2015-16, 1st Test at Dunedin, Day 1

Top three: Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva are currently Sri Lanka’s best bet for opening the innings. Karunaratne struck an impressive 186 in the first Test against West Indies, as well as 93 in the first innings of the tour game against New Zealand Board President’s XI (NZBP XI), indicating his good run of recent form. Silva has not been consistent in Tests of late, scoring one fifty in an otherwise disappointing series against India. Silva however, has been consistent in domestic cricket recently, which could prove useful in his selection in the first Test. With No. 3 Lahiru Thirimanne not in the squad, the path is clear for Kusal Mendis, who had made his debut in the West Indies Tests, to occupy the position.

Middle-Order: Following Kusal’s shocking exit from the tour due to a failed dope test, Dinesh Chandimal is likely to don the wicketkeeping gloves along with coming in at No. 4. Chandimal has had a great run with the bat in the last few months, with his whirlwind century against India in the Galle Test turning the match on its head. He also struck 151 in the first Test against West Indies. Skipper Angelo Mathews should ideally stick to his usual spot at No. 5, and his contribution with the ball will be even more crucial in the upcoming two-Test series due to the ruling out of Prasad in the series.

Milinda Siriwardana proved his worth in the second Test against West Indies, where his 68 and 42 helped the hosts breach the 200-run mark in both innings, ultimately helping them pull off a well-deserved win. Siriwardana also proved effective with the ball, taking three important wickets in the final innings to ultimately earn the Man of the Match. He will therefore come in at No. 6, with Dilruwan Perera, a specialist spinner who can also bat, likely to come in after him.

Lower-Order/Bowling unit: The Sri Lankan bowling unit has been severely hampered by the exit of spearhead Prasad, who was effective in the conditions in the previous series. Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal therefore would be skipper Mathews’ choice for opening the bowling, while Rangana Herath will be their main spin weapon. Given the lack of options and bouncy tracks, Vishwa Fernando may very well make his international debut here.