SL Await Trial By Pace In Christchurch

December 25, 2014

Things that are less green than this Hagley Oval surface in the approach to the Test: Kermit the frog, the Kyoto protocol, Sri Lanka's seam attack. It's not that New Zealand don't rate Sri Lanka in seaming conditions. At least, they have not outwardly said they don't. They just rate themselves more. With an outswing bowler in Tim Southee, and inswinging left-armer in Trent Boult, a hit-the-deck seamer in Doug Bracewell, and a tearaway in Neil Wagner, New Zealand possess a fast-bowling full house. Of course they rate themselves.

Previous Sri Lanka teams might have been perturbed by the hue of the surface, and the talk from the opposition, but this side is singing a more confident song. They have no quicks who have played more than 21 Tests, and four of the five fast-bowlers in the squad have played fewer than 16.

But they have done it before, this year, in Dubai, Dhaka and Headingley, they say, so what of the inexperience? Sri Lanka feel they have weapons too. Maybe not the gatling guns and rocket launchers - but a more old-fashioned breed of armaments: like the katana and the shuriken. They weaken the opposition before striking hard, rather than blowing top orders away on sight.

In the batting, New Zealand have the edge again, but when the opposition top order features two candidates for Test cricketer of the year, the hosts can only claim so much of an advantage. It is difficult to recall a time when Kumar Sangakkara was truly out of form. Angelo Mathews, meanwhile, is becoming one of cricket's all-weather batsmen - as competent stonewalling on a spicy pitch, as he is attacking on a dustbowl.

New Zealand, meanwhile, have Kane Williamson in imperious touch, and Ross Taylor not trailing far behind. As India found out early in the year, Brendon McCullum is capable of monster innings, as well as the momentum-pinching slap-dash fifties.

The hosts are clear favourites, largely by dint of familiarity with the conditions. But in 2014, Sri Lanka have begun to build a reputation as a decent traveling team, and they are desperate to protect that.


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