CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand will carry the momentum of their thrilling one-run victory against England into the upcoming first Test against Sri Lanka as the visitors have the opportunity to secure a spot in the ICC World Test Championship final by winning the series with a 2-0 sweep.
Tim Southee’s hosts became just the fourth team to win a Test after following on as they secured a draw in the two-match series against England.
Kane Williamson, who became New Zealand’s record run-scorer in the thrilling Wellington win, said it was vital to kick on after the Black Caps ended a seven-Test winless run.
“It’s been a long time for us to get over the line,” former skipper Williamson said ahead of the first Test against Sri Lanka starting on Thursday in Christchurch.
“We haven’t had the results we would’ve liked, despite putting the work in, so it’s nice to get those rewards.
“It’s an important series for us now as we are looking to improve and we’re focused in trying to put out better performances.”
Sri Lanka have only won two Tests of the 19 they have played in New Zealand.
But skipper Dimuth Karunaratne’s side have extra incentive this time.
They can reach the WTC final against Australia with a 2-0 series triumph, providing India fail to beat Australia in the final Test in Ahmedabad, which also begins Thursday.
Sri Lanka are an improving and more consistent side under Chris Silverwood, who took over as head coach in April last year.
They beat Bangladesh 1-0 away and drew 1-1 at home with both Australia and Pakistan, all in two-Test series, since the former England fast bowler’s appointment.
Their hopes of qualifying for the showpiece at The Oval in June were boosted when Australia clinched their place by winning the third Test against India in Indore inside three days last week.
“To get to the WTC final would be unbelievable,” Silverwood said.
“But at the same time we know we’ve got a very good New Zealand team in front of us as well and we have to respect that, work hard, and try and earn that right.”
New Zealand retained the squad that beat England in Wellington while Sri Lanka brought in two uncapped players, the 23-year-old batsman Nishan Madushka and seam bowler Milan Rathnayake, 26.
Madushka forced his way into the Test squad after scoring two centuries and a double hundred in three appearances against the touring England Lions a few weeks ago.
Sri Lanka’s preparations have been disrupted by rain, with the second day of their only warm-up match against a New Zealand Board XI washed out on Sunday in Lincoln, just outside Christchurch.
Sri Lanka will also play three one-day internationals and three Twenty20s against New Zealand after the Tests.
New Zealand (from): Tim Southee (capt), Tom Blundell, Michael Bracewell, Devon Conway, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Blair Tickner, Neil Wagner, Scott Kuggeleijn, Henry Nicholls, Kane Williamson, Will Young
Sri Lanka (from): Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Kamindu Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Nishan Madushka, Ramesh Mendis, Prabath Jayasuriya, Chamika Karunaratne, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando, Vishwa Fernando, Milan Rathnayake