New Zealand head coach Gary Stead has asked his troops to be at their best in the upcoming two-match Test series, starting from Wednesday, August 14, in Galle, which will mark the beginning of the ICC World Test Championship 2019-21 campaign for both the teams.
In the longest format of the game, the Blackcaps haven’t got a great record in Island nation having won their last Test series here in 1984 – their only red-ball success here.
The Kiwis have lost three series and have drawn as many since then, while managing four wins overall from 15 Test matches in Sri Lanka, however, Kane Williamson led side looks like a settled unit this time around with a spin-heavy bowling attack, which is suitable for the sub-continent conditions.
The tourists will be heading to the Test series with extremely proud of their recent record in the longest format having won each of their last five Test series. New Zealand has recently won 8 matches with just a single loss from their 12 outings in the traditional format of the game, but still, Stead feels Sri Lanka will be tough to handle in their own conditions.
Ahead of the first Test, Stead told media: “They've got the likes of [Angelo] Mathews back and he adds some glue to their middle order as well. They'll come into this series and the Test championship with some confidence I'm sure. We're going to have to be at the very top of our game.”
Meanwhile, the head coach believes that the Galle conditions will offer significant assistance to newcomers – leg-spinner Todd Astle and off-spinning all-rounder William Somerville.
He further explained, “I'd be mightily surprised if it doesn't spin [in Galle]. You want the stumps in play as often as you can and look at the success of [Rangana] Herath, who took a lot of wickets over a long period here. They [Astle and Somerville] are different bowlers, and different in height. Mitch [Santner] probably creates more bounce and sometimes that can be an advantage and, in these conditions, sometimes a disadvantage.”
The Kiwi coach was also impressed by Ajaz Patel after his brilliant show with the ball in the rain-affected practice match at Katunayake, as the left-arm spinner finished with figures of 5/41 in his 10-over spell against the Sri Lanka Board President's XI.
Stead signed off by saying, “Ajaz bowled beautifully. It probably showed he's been bowling right throughout the year in the UK as well [for the Cranleigh Cricket Club in Surrey] and carried on where he finished with us last time, which was great to see.”
(With ICC Inputs)