Sri Lanka will take on New Zealand in the first Test of the two-match series at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch, starting on Thursday (March 9). Dimuth Karunaratne and his men have an outside chance of making it through to the World Test Championship final but it will only be possible if India fail to defeat Australia in the fourth Test in Ahmedabad.
Sri Lanka can’t control what is going to happen in Ahmedabad, but whitewashing New Zealand at home is not going to be easy. They have to win both these Tests if they want to feature in the WTC final. In 19 Tests in the country, Sri Lanka have managed to win only two, the last being in 2006. In fact, they have lost five of their last six Tests in New Zealand.
The Hagley Oval in Christchurch has hosted five Tests since 2020, and the batters here have scored runs at an average of 30.7, while a wicket has fallen every 54.9 deliveries. The fast bowlers here have an average of 27.4 and a strike rate of 51.1, while the corresponding numbers for spinners are 60.6 and 83.6 respectively. On top of that, spinners have an economy of 4.3 in the aforementioned time frame.
While you could go for the above team, you can also choose your team from Cricket.com’s Fantasy Research Centre. You can use this tool to build your team with the help of algorithms. Then, based on your preferences, the platform will guide you through creating the ideal fantasy XI.
For small league: Tom Blundell (capt), Tim Southee (vice-capt)
For grand league: Angelo Mathews (capt), Kane Williamson (vice-capt)
Stats that matter
Tom Blundell has been New Zealand’s best batter in this format since 2022, having amassed 1036 runs in 19 innings at an average of 60.94. The wicketkeeper-batter has eight fifties and two centuries in this period.
Tim Southee has an unbelievable record against Sri Lanka. The right-arm seamer has claimed 53 wickets in 19 innings at an average of 18.1 - his best against any opponent.
New Zealand didn’t lose a single Test at home in the last WTC edition, and their batters played a massive role in that. As a batting unit, they operated at an impressive average of 51.3 at home in the last cycle, which has dropped to 32.8 in the current cycle (including Tests outside the WTC).
Kusal Mendis averages 50.86 in New Zealand but doesn’t have a great record in Test cricket since 2021. The right-hander has managed 395 runs in his last 16 innings at a mediocre average of 24.69.
Grand league punts
Angelo Mathews is going to be a key player for Sri Lanka in this series. The middle-order batter averages 55.89 in New Zealand and has 615 runs in his last eight Tests at an average of 51.25.
Dinesh Chandimal has four half-centuries across nine innings in New Zealand and has an average of 102.71 in his last 10 innings, studded with four fifties and two hundreds.
Neil Wagner did redeem himself in the last innings of the second Test against England, but an average of 33.5 looks mediocre compared to his 22.87 in the last cycle.
New Zealand - Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Will Young, Henry Nicholls, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Blundell (wk), Michael Bracewell, Tim Southee (c), Matt Henry, Neil Wagner.
Sri Lanka - Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Chamika Karunaratne, Prabath Jayasuriya, Asitha Fernando, Kasun Rajitha.