Sri Lanka’s seniors play a key role in their quest for a place in the World Test Championship final

In the last Test series in New Zealand, both sides were very clearly going for the win as that is their Test match identity. Sri Lanka may have claimed to have pioneered Bazball, before Baz was even a thing – the likes of Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya flared up in the late 90s.

But at the moment Sri Lanka is not a particularly attacking team considering what other teams are doing. And yet in this series they will probably push for wins, as there is a chance that a 2-0 result in their favor will put them in the final of the World Test Championshp.

It’s an outside opportunity. India will need to lose or draw their final test against Australia for Sri Lanka to even get into contention. No rain is forecast in Ahmedabad where the field is mostly dry. Australia should probably have another upset.

And then you come to Sri Lanka’s own record in New Zealand. In 19 tests in the country, they have won only two (in 2006, most recently). The opportunity seems far away.
Still, it feels like something of an achievement to still be in the fray at this late stage. And it certainly plays in the minds of the cricketers. Here is New Zealand captain Tim Southee, two days away from the first Test, in Christchurch.

“I think Sri Lanka is still in the hunt to reach the final of the World Test Championship and they’ve played great cricket over the last two years to get to that position. For us, we know Sri Lanka is a really good side .” , and they showed it – to be at the top of the World Test Championship.

“They’ve got plenty to play for in the next two weeks. We’re out of the Test Championship.”

The players of Sri Lanka have also spoken about it. In an interview with Michael Appleton, the New Zealand High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Captain Dimuth Karunaratne said:

“They are games we need to win to be in the final of the World Test Championship. I don’t want to put any pressure on the boys, but everyone knows that this is a game we need to win to get into the World Test Championship .

“We are in the top three now, so we have one hurdle and everyone knows where we are now. The guys are working hard to win the two finals of the Test Championship and are doing everything they can to be in that final. “

If there is any chance for Sri Lanka to pull off an improbable run of victories, it might be through their experience. Last time they were there, Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis hit it off together for an entire day (the first time a Sri Lankan couple had done this abroad, and the 19th time it had happened in all), to get a test in Wellington. Both hit hundreds. Karunaratne has a century in Christchurch and Chandimal has four fifties in nine innings.

The attack is much greener, but if the pitches are too, Sri Lanka has bowlers who could potentially put New Zealand’s top in trouble as long as they stay fit throughout the game (watching Lahiru Kumara in particular). But it will probably be the batters who will have to take the lead. Angelo Mathews, who has now played exactly 100 Tests, is on his fourth Test tour of New Zealand.

“We play our kind of cricket and we have quite a bit of experience in New Zealand – myself, Dimuth and Chandimal,” he said. “We’ve played a few series and know the conditions quite well. It’s a new series, so we have to start fresh again.

“There will be plenty of balls that will miss the bat, but you have to be positive and look for runs.”


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