Our prediction is that New Zealand will kick off the series with a win against Sri Lanka at Basin Reserve.
Sri Lanka is touring New Zealand for a month-long tour that will start with first Test at Wellington on 15th Dec. The tour consists of 2 Tests, 3 ODIs and then a solitary T20 international.
Sri Lanka is coming to this tour after a horrid home series against England which they lost 0-3. This is the second time in the last three home series that Sri Lanka failed to win a single Test. New Zealand on the other hand have been phenomenal in the UAE winning the Test series 2-1 against Pakistan who have made a fortress in the UAE.
The recent forms of these two teams are in such contrast that picking a better team seems trivial at this moment. Sri Lanka are clearly under pressure going into the first Test. With captain Chandimal back in the squad Sri Lanka would be keen on improving the performance in a country where they are yet to win a Test since December 2006.
New Zealand will kick off the home summer at Basin Reserve. They are riding high on confidence on the back of a successful tour of UAE where they toppled mightily Pakistan to win the Test series 2-1, their first against Pakistan in 49 years away from home. It took final hour heroics from Ajaz Patel in the first Test and a majestic knock by Kane Williamson the third one for New Zealand to come from behind and win those tests against Pakistan.
Against Sri Lanka, Ajaz Patel will be the solitary spinner in the squad as the off-spinner William Somerville who helped win a Test against Pakistan has been left out of the team. Will Young, the opening batsman, had been included in the 13-member squad. Tom Latham has been persisted with despite a bad run in the UAE and Matt Henry too has retained a place in the squad.
Kane Williamson (c), Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Ajaz Patel, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner
The last place Sri Lanka want to tour right now is the place where they hardly win but that is precisely where they find themselves for a two match Test series against New Zealand. These are turbulent times for Sri Lanka. In last one and half years, Sri Lanka lost all the Tests of a home series twice - against India, in July 2017 and against England last month. The last time something like this happened was way back in 2004 against Australia.
Sri Lanka will be looking to settle things in the leadership department with fit again skipper Dinesh Chandimal, who lost last two tests against England, back to the squad. Lahiru Thirimanne has been included in squad along with wicketkeeper-batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama. Akila Dananjaya has been left out as he is awaiting the results of the test for suspect action.
Seamers Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal are in the squad to lead the pace attack that should make a major impact in seaming conditions for Sri Lanka to have any say in the proceedings of the first Test.
Dinesh Chandimal (c), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara.
The conditions at Basin Reserve offer enough help to the seamers especially in the first couple of days. The cold weather assists in seaming the ball early in the day. As the sun comes out batting becomes easier which is when the batsmen should look to cash in.
Historically the teams bowling first have won 26 matches at this venue compared to the 12 won batting first. The team winning the toss should look to Bowl first at Wellington.
Home team with an away series win under their belt is pitted against a touring team that lost at home, especially in times when losing at home or winning away have become increasingly unlikely. The stats and overall Test cricket equations do not favor Sri Lanka as they look to take on New Zealand at Basin Reserve.
It looks difficult for a Sri Lanka to win a Test in a country where they rarely win, or tour for that matter, against a high in confidence well-rested Home team at a time when the guests are finding it difficult to win at home. Thus, our prediction is that New Zealand will crush Sri Lanka in the opening Test at Wellington coming Saturday.
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