New Zealand’s batsmen were simply abysmal in the first test of this two match mini-series against Sri Lanka and a serious improvement is needed if Ross Taylor’s men are going record a victory in Colombo (4am GMT, Sunday).
Sri Lanka were by no means at their best in Galle but a solid team performance was enough to clinch the match in less than three days.
As a touring side, the Kiwis have a small pool of playing personnel from which to make any changes in their line up. You feel however that there just isn’t the quality available to really test the hosts. What is needed is a massive raising of their overall performance otherwise, those 8/11 odds will seem like a banker.
There were some positives for New Zealand in a modest first innings of 221 as Brendon McCullum and Daniel Flynn both recorded half centuries. A lack of support from that top order affected the final total and this is one area that needs significant improvement.
For once, the Kiwi bowlers looked threatening as Sri Lanka batted and made just 247 in reply. Tim Southee and Jeetan Patel claimed seven wickets between them and much will depend on these two when the second test begins.
Sri Lanka should have no concerns despite positing that sub-par total and it’s likely that the hosts will field an unchanged side in Colombo. Even though the top order failed in Galle during that first innings, there is enough strength in depth to surpass a weak New Zealand unit.
In the bowling department, skipper Mahela Jaywardene would have been pleased to see spinner Rangana Herath return to form after an indifferent period in one day colours. Herath claimed 11 wickets during the game to take the Man of the Match award and few, if any Kiwi batsmen could read his variations.
Herath is vital to his team because there isn’t the same overall strength in the bowling attack that Sri Lanka possess in the batting department. In the absence of the injured Ajantha Mendis, Herath really is carrying the team at times and if New Zealand can concentrate and play him much better in Colombo, then they stand a better chance of recording a positive result.
One option for Ross Taylor’s men could be to attack the bowlers more. Naturally this can be a reckless approach that often backfires but it may be the only option for a struggling set of tourists. They look a stronger unit in the one day arena, where they are forced to play their shots.
New Zealand really do hold the key to this second test and if they can improve then they may even be capable of the win at outstanding odds of 8/1. However, you can expect Herath to run through the team once again and turn the odds of 8/11 into the banker that it threatens to be.