One thing perhaps even rarer than a full-day's cricket in
Sri Lanka during the monsoon season is a New Zealand test
victory, but captain Ross Taylor is promising an aggressive
approach at Galle.
Taylor said the Black Caps can take positives from the washed
out one-day series against Sri Lanka - an extremely damp
affair in which every match was affected by rain and won 3-0
by the hosts. And it's that optimistic thinking which has
Taylor talking about how he wants his batsmen to take the
attack to the Sri Lankans, particularly their spin bowlers,
in the first test which starts on Saturday.
New Zealand's last test victory was against Zimbabwe in
Hamilton in February. Their last away win in the longest form
of the game was the triumph over Australia in Hobart in
December last year.
Since then Taylor's men have endured a miserable run of
results in all forms of the game, thanks mostly to New
Zealand's inability to score enough runs. They were swept by
India in the two-test series on the subcontinent in August,
although they at least competed well in the final match in
Bangalore, a five-wicket loss; were beaten 2-0 by the West
Indies in the Caribbean in June, and lost a three-match
series to South Africa 1-0 at home.
For Taylor, however, the first of two tests against Sri Lanka
is an opportunity to balance the ledger slightly and his side
will be helped by the retirement from test cricket of spinner
Muttiah Muralitharan and absence of Lasith Malinga, a quick
bowler who doesn't play tests due to injury concerns and who
has created many problems for the Blacks Caps' batsmen.
"We've got an opportunity to create some history," Taylor
said. "I think the way we played the last test in India, the
way we attacked spin, that's going to be crucial in this next
match. And being positive. Obviously a lot of teams think
that's a weakness of ours and if we show that's a strength of
ours and play positive and aggressive cricket to their
spinners, that bodes well for our batsmen and hopefully we
can string a few more partnerships together and instead of
scoring 300-350, push that out to 400 and put pressure on the
"We don't have to contend with Muralitharan which is always a
nice thing not to contend with. We've still got to play well
ourselves and concentrate on what we can do well. But
definitely their bowling line up is an area we can target."
New Zealand could go into the match with the batting order
from their last test in Bangalore, unless Rob Nicol can push
Daniel Flynn or James Franklin out of the middle order.
Jeetan Patel, who impressed in India, will again be the
side's spinner in the absence of Dan Vettori, with the only
question marks surrounding the seam attack.
Taylor expects the Galle pitch to be relatively lively, and
New Zealand do have the weapons to capitalise on that. Doug
Bracewell, who was rested for the limited overs matches, is
likely to slot straight back in, leaving incumbents Tim
Southee and Trent Boult fighting off Chris Martin and Neil
Wagner for the last two spots.
"The new ball will be crucial - putting the ball in the right
area and asking questions," Taylor said. "England were just
out here recently and their seamers had a lot of success.
It's not all about spin in this country. As I said, the
weather conditions might play their part and not necessarily
on day one. As we saw in the one day series, once it did rain
the wicket did juice up a little bit and might play into our