Sat, 20 Apr 2019

Sri Lanka's best hope in New Zealand is for their seamers to attack the opposition batsmen. So said captain Dinesh Chandimal on the eve of the first Test, in Wellington.

He didn't quite say that Sri Lanka's batting was fragile (even though it is). He didn't make mention of the fact that his young quicks aren't really the bowl-dry-and-wait-for-the-mistake sort (even though they aren't). But he did acknowledge that going aggressively at New Zealand with the ball gave Sri Lanka their best chance. It is possible that two of Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha and Dushmantha Chameera will play. And if they do, there could be a little pace and venom in this Sri Lanka attack. The last time Kumara and Rajitha had played together, they took 12 wickets between them, and set Sri Lanka on track for victory against West Indies, in Barbados.

"On the tour to the West Indies we got a lot of grass on the pitches and we always want to attack the batsmen - that's what we did as a bowling unit." Chandimal said ahead of the Wellington Test. "The seamers have played some outstanding cricket. Now they've got some experience playing on the grassy wickets, and I'm sure they will learn. What they did in West Indies they will do here."

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Also in the squad are older and wiser quicks Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep, who have both toured New Zealand before, though without any great success. Sri Lanka might be tempted to field all three of their young quicks at the expense of the seniors, but will likely veer toward caution and play Lakmal, who offers a measure of control to his captain. On a pitch as green as the Basin Reserve's, almost any fast bowler is in contention for wickets in the first couple of days, however.

"Definitely the seamers will be the happiest in both sides after seeing the pitch," Chandimal said. "We've got Suranga and in the last couple of years he's done so much for the Test side. We've also got Pradeep, who's got a lot of experience playing international cricket. With the young fast bowlers also there. They've got really good pace and bounce. I'm sure they will enjoy playing in New Zealand."

On the batting front, Sri Lanka are likely to rely heavily on three senior batsmen: Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews and Chandimal himself. Of those batsmen, Karunaratne perhaps carries the most hopes, as the only batsman in the squad to have made a hundred in the country. He also averages 53.91 in the year, following good home series against South Africa and England.

"Dimuth has got a 150-odd playing in New Zealand, and he's got so much experience playing in New Zealand," Chandimal said. "At the same time Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne are back in the side. We've got a few experienced players and at the same time, a few youngsters. Now they've almost played 20 Tests, so they've got experience as well. Everyone's in good shape."

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