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How can Sri Lanka conquer the Black Caps?

How can Sri Lanka conquer the Black Caps?

Aadhil Siddhique
12/12/2018

The Lions are back in the land of the Kiwis after almost 3 years. The only instance the two teams met each other after the 2015/16 series in New Zealand was in a 2017 Champions Trophy warm-up match which New Zealand cruised to victory chasing down 356.

Sri Lanka’s memories facing the Black Caps in recent times aren’t ones to cherish. After yet another disappointing home series, being white-washed by the English, Sri Lanka have taken 17 men for a Test series in New Zealand; just 9 of them have played Test cricket in New Zealand before. On the other hand the Kiwis are all set to go for the kill with their confidence levels sky high after a Test series win against Pakistan in the UAE.

Read More : From Predator to Prey: Sri Lanka’s disastrous Asia Cup campaign

Cricket as we all know, is an unpredictable game. Keeping aside the fact that the Kiwis are favorites to register a 2-0 win, let’s take a look at the series using both teams’ numbers from the beginning of 2016.

Toss

The toss has become a crucial factor in games, so much so that maybe teams should consider bringing in specialist coin tossers! For Sri Lanka, after losing all 3 tosses against England at home, winning the toss in New Zealand is going to be very important.

In the 13 matches played in New Zealand since the beginning of 2016, 10 matches have produced results while the team bowling first has won on 8 occasions. This particular stat strongly favours the fact that the Captain winning the toss should opt to bowl first. Of the past 13 Tests in New Zealand, a captain winning the toss has chosen to bat first just twice.

Bowling

To win a Test, you have to take 20 wickets. So planning out a bowling strategy for a Test match is very important and depends highly on our strengths and weaknesses and the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.

Sri Lanka’s bowling in the post-Murali era has been highly dependent on Rangana Herath who has had an immense impact on almost every Test Sri Lanka win during his career. His absence will definitely be felt hard by the boys in New Zealand and the whole responsibility of the spin department will fall on Dilruwan Perera.

Read More : From Ponting to Buttler – Herath’s ‘Greatest Hits’

Although pace-friendly wickets are expected to be provided in New Zealand, Dilruwan’s role in Sri Lanka’s bowling plans is going to be of very high importance. The below table clearly suggests that apart from Herath, Dilruwan Perera’s success has a big impact on the team’s success. So, Dilruwan adjusting to the conditions and executing the plans well is one factor the team management should put their head in to managing properly.

Bowler Average Average in won matches Average in lost matches
Rangana Herath 24.14 in 26 matches 16.04 in 12 matches 46 in 11 matches
Dilruwan Perera 32.32 in 25 matches 22.67 in 13 matches 45.22 in 9 matches
Suranga Lakmal 34.04 in 26 matches 27.15 in 11 matches 43.04 in 10 matches

Being provided with seam friendly wickets and with the challenge of bowling to a batting line-up that has played most of their cricket in seam-friendly conditions, the Sri Lankan pace bowling attack led by Suranga Lakmal is going to play the main role in executing Sri Lanka’s bowling plans, irrespective of past stats and numbers.

Read More : More positives for Lankans from warm-up game

From the 5 speedsters in the squad Suranga Lakmal will be Sri Lanka’s ace pacer. The past stats reflect that Lakmal having a good day will in return turn the day good for Sri Lanka.

Looking at the New Zealand batting, it is just one name that comes to our mind straight away, Mr. Consistent, Kane Williamson. He is definitely going to be a threat. Having a proper plan to keep him quiet throughout the series and executing it to perfection is going to do be a key factor for the tourists.

Numbers as always, suggest that Sri Lanka will face another threat. See the below table,

Batsmen Average Average in won matches Average in lost matches
Kane Williamson 55.42 in 22 matches 67.43 in 11 matches 32.30 in 7 matches
Ross Taylor 48.91 in 19 matches 80.83 in 11 matches 17.20 in 5 matches
Henry Nicholls 39.20 in 21 matches 53.61 in 11 matches 34.58 in 6 matches
BJ Watling 38.88 in 21 matches 62.37 in 9 matches 24.86 in 8 matches
Tom Latham 33.92 in 23 matches 43.33 in 11 matches 24.75 in 8 matches

Take a look at Ross Taylor’s numbers! It suggests that his success or failure has a direct impact on the result. Having an almost doubled average in wins and an average very much lower than his regular one in defeats clearly suggests that New Zealand are pretty dependent on his performance. Interestingly he has played in all 11 matches New Zealand won since the beginning of 2016 and averages a stunning 80.83. So targeting Ross Taylor’s wicket with a special plan will definitely help the Lankans.

Image removed.Tip – Lakmal and Dilruwan will have to lead the bowling attack with the young speed guns rallying around them. Get Ross Taylor’s wicket as soon as possible while not forgetting that Kane Williamson is still their best batsman.

Batting

Sri Lanka’s batting has been a concern to them irrespective of the conditions and the batsmen will have to fire in this series if the visitors are to have any chance of success. Sri Lanka have largely depended on their highest ranked Test batsman Dimuth Karunaratne in the most recent Test series. The below table clearly reflects it as Karunaratne has managed to maintain an impressive average slightly above 50 in matches Sri Lanka have won.

Read More : Reminiscing Sri Lanka’s first overseas win in New Zealand

Although Dinesh Chandimal hasn’t had the level of impact Karunaratne has had towards Sri Lankan victories, his contribution in this series is going to be vital. Chandimal being in and out of the team due to injuries and various other reasons might be the reason why stats doesn’t reflect his value.

Batsmen Average Average in won matches Average in lost matches
Dinesh Chandimal 42.81 in 24 matches 44.92 in 8 matches 31.81 in 11 matches
Dimuth Karunaratne 39.56 in 29 matches 50.17 in 12 matches 35.11 in 11 matches
Kusal Mendis 36.71 in 29 matches 34.92 in 13 matches 29.92 in 13 matches
Dhananjaya de Silva 36.59 in 20 matches 41.29 in 9 matches 21.50 in 8 matches
Niroshan Dickwella 31.28 in 21 matches 33.64 in 8 matches 26.22 in 13 matches
Angelo Mathews 29.79 in 22 matches 27.91 in 6 matches 29.50 in 13 matches

The most interesting fact that is reflected through the above table is Angelo Mathew’s importance towards Sri Lanka’s test wins during the past 3 years. Going down memory lane we’ll often come across miracles by Mathews which gave Sri Lanka some incredible wins. But, this has not happened in the most recent Tests.

Image removed.Mathews coming back to form during the England series and scoring a century in the warm up has given the visitors hope to expect something big from their most experienced batsman.

On the other side the Kiwi bowling is heavily dependent on the seamers. With just one spinner in their squad, their pace trio of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner are expected to lead the attack.

The below table suggests that Neil Wagner is going to pick up wickets and the balance is hinged on the success of the Boult-Southee combo. Trent Boult or Tim Southee having an off day is going to be a relief to the batsmen, knowing how deadly the duo can be if they get going.

Supporting the belief further numbers show that seeing through Boult and Southee is important as their contribution has a higher impact towards the result of the game. Having said that the Sri Lankan batsmen can’t take Wagner for granted because he is New Zealand’s Mr. Consistent with the ball!

Bowler Average Average in won matches Average in lost matches
Neil Wagner 24.67 in 20 matches 20.32 in 10 matches 29.50 in 6 matches
Trent Boult 27.91 in 20 matches 21.83 in 10 matches 47.72 in 7 matches
Tim Southee 28.67 in 15 matches 24.76 in 9 matches 47.70 in 4 matches

Tip – Dimuth, Chandimal and Dhananjaya should lead Sri Lanka’s resurgence with the bat with the rest rallying around them. See off Boult and Southee carefully and be mindful when facing Wagner!

So in conclusion, Sri Lanka are facing a big challenge ahead and their success will depend largely on whether they can execute their plans.

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