Sugar rush could be needed for challenge ahead

Tom Latham
Tom Latham
The Black Caps have eaten a lot of cake lately.

Whether that is good preparation for the first test against Sri Lanka, which gets under way at Galle International Stadium today, time will tell.

New Zealand's warm-up match against the Sri Lankan Board President's XI in Colombo last week was cut short by two days.

Just 65.5 overs were possible. And the Black Caps did not get to bat.

But the squad found a delicious way to kill time. Kane Williamson celebrated his 29th birthday with some cake on the boundary, while off-spinner William Somerville ticked over a bracket year.

No news on whether the 35-year-old needed a second breath for all those candles.

''We've certainly had our fair share of cake over here, which has been nice,'' Black Caps opener Tom Latham said. ''That is why it has been nice to get into training today to try and sweat it out.''

A little sugar rush ought to give the bowlers the energy they will need for the challenge ahead.

The Black Caps look set to name three spinners.

They picked four specialist tweakers for the tour and you can ink in left-armer Ajaz Patel for one spot. He impressed with five for 41 in the warm-up.

Somerville's ability to take the ball away from the left-handers will enhance his prospects of getting a run. The former Otago spinner claimed match figures of seven for 127 to help the Black Caps clinch a 123-run win in the deciding test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi last year. It was his debut as well.

Mitchell Santner and Todd Astle may end up battling for the other spot, while Trent Boult is likely to be the only specialist seamer, with all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme providing support.

There might be a temptation to include Neil Wagner, though. The former Otago left-armer can usually get something out of any kind of pitch.

New Zealand's seamers can draw on happy memories. Boult and Tim Southee combined to take 21 wickets in two tests the last time New Zealand toured Sri Lanka in 2012.

But England defeated Sri Lanka 3-0 late last year and it did so by stacking its side with spinners.

''For us, it is about coming up with plans to try and counteract the Sri Lankan batsmen and [also] come up with plans to counteract their bowlers,'' Latham said.

''It is nice that the guys have been in these conditions before. It was a few years ago that they were over here.

''But we've been in the UAE not long ago and had some success there, so hopefully we can switch into that mentality of spin and go from there.

''We are obviously going to face a lot more spin, which is going to be challenging.

''There are some guys in the squad that we haven't faced, so for us it is about looking at the footage we have on them and trying to find ways of playing them.''

Lasith Embuldeniya fits into that category. The left-arm spinner has played just two tests but shapes as one to watch.

The 22-year-old grabbed a five-wicket bag on debut and will team up with Akila Dananjaya and left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan.

They will be formidable in their home conditions and New Zealand's batsmen are going in underdone. They have had just two net sessions in the lead-up.

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