1st Test: Milestones beckon Kane Williamson as New Zealand face beleaguered Sri Lanka
Kane Williamson can go past McCullum and Howarth with victory in Wellington. ©AFP

Kane Williamson’s New Zealand  go into the Test series against Sri Lanka starting Saturday in Wellington as favourites as the home summer begins, on the basis of their recent 2-1 series triumph in the UAE and the troubles that have dogged their opponents.

Their coach, Gary Stead, feels New Zealand go into the first of two Tests in the usual position of being at a disadvantage in home conditions because they’ve only been home for a week after five weeks in the heat of the UAE. But given the seam and swing-friendly conditions expected, it is hard to see Sri Lanka overcome New Zealand who have won their last five Tests against them.

ALSO READ: Sri Lanka aim to put troubled times behind them

Dinesh Chandimal’s team appear in upheaval after losing 0-3 to England, the replacement of the national selectors and the resignation of their batting coach. They have put faith in pace for this series, and have to choose between a crop of experienced and sturdy bowlers. Angelo Mathews’ century in the tour match augurs well.

Apart from challenging Virat Kohli for the No 1 spot in the ICC Test batsmen rankings, Williamson is one win away from becoming New Zealand’s second most successful Test captain.

ALSO READ: Williamson basks in ‘special’ Test series win in the UAE

New Zealand are ranked fourth in Tests and Sri Lanka are sixth.

Date: December 15

Venue: Basin Reserve, Wellington

Time: 03:30 IST

Weather: Partly cloudy with a high of 19

Team News

New Zealand 

The hosts have named their strongest lineup, which includes seamer Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner and one spinner in Ajaz Patel who will play his first Test at home.

Probable XI: 1 Jeet Raval, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Ajaz Patel, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Trent Boult

Sri Lanka 

Danushka Gunathilaka and Lahiru Thirimanne opened the only tour match, which indicates they are the preferred choice and Dimuth Karunaratne will sit out. One of Dhananjaya de Silva and Roshen Silva will get the nod in the middle order.

Three pacers appear the way to go, which means that Lakshan Sandakan will likely sit out. Nuwan Pradeep and Lahiru Kumara are back in the squad, but only one looks set to play.

Probable XI: 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Lahiru Thirimanne, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt),  5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Lahiru Kumara, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Suranga Lakmal

Statistics

– New Zealand have not lost at home to an Asian team since 2010.

– Williamson needs one Test win to overtake Brendon McCullum and Goeff Howarth as New Zealand’s second most successful captain.

– Dilruwan Perera needs three wickets to get to 150, only the fourth Sri Lankan to do so.

Quotes

“Most teams in world cricket can upset others and it’s not like there is a massive gulf between them all and we certainly won’t be taking Sri Lanka lightly.” – Gary Stead