|Friday, 25 April 2003|
Prabath, Kaushalya to make Test debuts : Back to the conventional game
by Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Following the influx of one-day cricket during the World Cup in South Africa, it is with some relief that the purists will welcome the conventional form of the game when the mini-two Test series between Sri Lanka and New Zealand opens at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium today.
New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming at least sounded pleased when he said that it was good to be playing Test cricket again because they had not played it for some time.
"It's a very tough series, but one that we are looking forward to. We want to play it very well in challenging conditions, which is what success is all about," said Fleming.
"A lot of players have played Test cricket here. A few of them have played one-dayers so it is important that they take on the advice of those who have played here and use their experience. The experienced guys will have to perform," he said.
Sri Lanka's interim coach Duleep Mendis also speaking on the same lines said: "In the last five to six months we have been playing quite a lot of one-dayers and all of a sudden we have started to play Test matches. The thinking, attitude and approach will be different. I hope the boys will adjust early because they have played so much of one-day cricket and now everything will be different".
"Their game plans will have to change. For the bowlers, it is not containment, it is taking wickets and the batsmen, some of them will have to occupy the crease while, and there are one or two others who play the game differently in Test cricket. It is a blend of everything and they've got to be prepared for that," said Mendis. Sri Lanka last played a Test series in November where they lost 2-0 to South Africa, while New Zealand's last Test series in December against India produced a 2-0 win in their favour. If Sri Lanka and New Zealand are hungry for Test cricket one cannot blame them for it. They have not met each other for six years, the last series being in 1997-98 when Sri Lanka came from behind to beat New Zealand 2-1 after losing the first Test at the R. Premadasa Stadium.
Fleming was the captain on that occasion and he is one of the few players in the side whose experience of Sri Lankan conditions the New Zealand team will heavily rely on if they are to succeed in the present conditions. "We don't see the heat as a problem but more as a challenge to win a Test match here.
It is something we have got to get used to," said Fleming. "I don't think it will hinder our chances of winning, but it changes your match plan. It is part of the touring and part of winning in a foreign country," he said.
Fleming said that due to the hot conditions he would have to monitor the bowling spells of his bowlers cutting them down to something like 4-5 over spells.
"They've been through some good programs in the last four days. We know pretty much what the guys can deliver," he said. However Fleming said that more than the spinners or fast bowlers dominating the series, if the batsmen can get runs on the board it would give any bowler a chance to get wickets.
"If you post a big first innings score you put the opposition under pressure. That's the biggest focus. If you give runs you can do very little. The major focus in a Test that is dominated with spinners, as Sri Lanka is that's where you fancy your chances," said Fleming.
Mendis said that going on the history of the ground, there should be a little bit of movement and bounce at the beginning. "But looking at this wicket there is not much of grass and it might take spin early than what a normal wicket takes. We will have an additional spinner because the wicket looks as if it will help the spinners earlier than what one would expect," said Mendis.
He said that his team was aware that New Zealand are not good players of spin as some of the teams from the subcontinent. However he said they would have been working hard on that aspect.
Fleming said that his team was aware that Muttiah Muralitharan is a good bowler because of his fine strike rate.
"We have yet to play him very well. But you can't manufacture a plan for the whole team. The guys have got to work it out. Some of them are positive; some of them have good defence. It's going to be a mixture of the two that will get you through," said Fleming.
New Zealand are likely to play spinners Daniel Vettori and Paul Wiseman whom Fleming described as having played in Sri Lanka before with success.
He said the shoulder injury Scott Styris was carrying may restrict him from bowling and may have an impact on the balance of the side. He was to undergo a fitness test yesterday.
Mendis said the pace of Shane Bond, one of the fastest bowlers in the world cricket today, should not duly worry his batsmen under the present conditions.
"Bond is an attacking bowlers and we have been following him quite a lot. From what we saw of him in the run up games, his style has changed a little bit maybe because this is the longer game. We are quite aware of it. In the one-dayers we saw he used to bring the ball into the right-hander quite a lot, but in the run up games he has been moving it away," said Mendis.
Sri Lanka is likely to give first Test caps to fast bowler Prabath Nissanka and right-arm leg-spinner Kaushalya Lokuarachchi. Considering the nature of the pitch they are also likely to go in with three spinners which means that Kumar Dharmasena's solid batting will see him edge out the enterprising approach of Upul Chandana for the no. 7 spot.
SRI LANKA (from): Hashan Tillakaratne (captain), Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Kumar Dharmasena, Chaminda Vaas, Kaushalya Lokuarachchi, Prabath Nissanka, Muttiah Muralitharan, Upul Chandana.
NEW ZEALAND (from): Stephen Fleming (captain), Mark Richardson, Matt Horne, Mathew Sinclair, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram, Robbie Hart, Daniel Vettori, Paul Wiseman, Daryl Tuffey, Shane Bond, Ian Butler, Richard Jones.
UMPIRES: Daryl Harper and Simon Taufel (both Australia), TV umpire: Tyronne Wijewardene (Sri Lanka), Match Referee: Gundappa Viswanath (India).
Produced by Lake House