After a string of rain-ruined limited overs encounters, Sri Lanka and New Zealand are facing a two match test series with the forlorn hope that they will see five days of cricket in each. However, it seems almost certain that the weather will intervene at some stage but will there be enough play in Saturday’s 1st Test in Galle (4am GMT, Saturday) for either side to secure a result?
Without taking any analysis into account, some punters will have already taken the draw bet simply based on the weather in Sri Lanka. You may want to do that too, before the bookmakers shorten or withdraw the price altogether but the two teams are still capable of providing a full and entertaining game.
In the five-day format, a weaker New Zealand team look particularly vulnerable and while it’s unusual to see odds as high as 10/1 in any test match, they are justified. The Kiwi shortcomings can often be overcome in the one day arena but in the longest form of the game, Ross Taylor’s men are likely to be exposed.
The tourists certainly have a chance however but the key lies in their batting line up and the ability to back up star men Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum. If either of their top two batters fail, who will take responsibility and score the runs needed to pose a threat to the hosts?
Taylor’s side are boosted by the return of Martin Guptill, an important opening batsman who was rested for the one day leg of this tour. Guptill was in excellent form against New Zealand, earlier in 2012 and his partnership with Rob Nicol at the top of the order will be a vital one in this match.
Another key performer is 22-year-old Kane Williamson who has made some important scores for his country at test level, but tends to lose form in the one day arena. Williamson’s patient batting is more suited to five-day cricket and he is another player who can provide valuable support to Taylor and McCullum.
There are no concerns over Sri Lanka’s batting which will, once again, rely on the combined efforts of Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and captain Mahela Jayawardene. The skill of these three is impressive enough but their consistency is remarkable and New Zealand’s bowling attack doesn’t seem to have enough of a threat to their likely dominance of this test.
Sri Lanka’s bowling is an area where they have concerns however and Jayawardene will be without Lasith Malinga who no longer plays test match cricket. Ajantha Mendis is injured so much will depend on Rangana Herath who had a good series against England but was disappointing in the recent One Day Internationals.
Sri Lanka have been forced to call on Tharindu Kashaul, a 19-year-old off spinner who has played no first class cricket and overall, this is a weaker area where the tourists can take advantage.
Weather interruptions seem certain but New Zealand’s test form is so poor that Sri Lanka should win this, even if the match is restricted to as little as three and a half days of action.