Crisis-ridden Sri Lanka will be wary of providing a rank turning wicket in the first Test in Galle after being outsmarted by England in the most recent encounter at the venue. England overcame the battle with a variety of offspin, legspin and left-arm spin as the trio of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Jack Leach played a key role in a 3-0 series sweep.
The Kiwis too are carrying plenty of spin options and are likely to play two of them. Bombay-born left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel claimed five wickets in the warm-up game in Negombo and he is likely to be the second spinner to leggie Todd Astle.
When they trounced South Africa five months ago, rookie Oshada Fernando played a key role posting an unbeaten 75 in Port Elizabeth in what was his second Test match. He became an instant hero and his subsequent snubbing from the World Cup squad earned the wrath of former players.
There will be more disappointment as Fernando, one of the brightest prospects to emerge in recent times, is set to miss both Tests with the return of Angelo Mathews, who was injured for South Africa.
“New Zealand will be tough to beat. We have got guys who were not part of the series in South Africa, so we have got to make some tough calls,” said Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne.
Former captain Dinesh Chandimal, who also missed out on touring South Africa, is back in the squad and the wicketkeeper’s slot will be a toss up between him and Niroshan Dickwella.
Lahiru Kumara, another player who didn’t go to South Africa, will be Sri Lanka’s lead fast bowler and it remains to be seen with whom he will share the new ball. Both Suranga Lakmal and Vishwa Fernando were main architects during the win in South Africa.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Colin de Grandhomme, Todd Astle, William Somerville, Mitchell Santner, Tom Blundell, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Ajaz Patel, Neil Wagner
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