NZ face an uphill task against SL

NZ face an uphill task against SL

Cricket: Second Test: Kiwi skipper Vettori on the verge of a rare feat

NZ face an uphill task against SL

CAPTAIN SUPREME: Daniel Vettori trains in Colombo on Tuesday ahead of the second Test against Sri Lanka. AP

New Zealand had 13 of their 15 players laid low by upset stomachs and viral fever during the first Test in Galle last week, which Sri Lanka won by 202 runs to take the lead in the two-match series.

Skipper Daniel Vettori said the entire squad had trained over the past two days and his players were gearing up for a better show in the final Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club here.

“We need players with the ability to stand throughout the game,” Vettori told reporters before the practice session.

“We will decide on the line-up before the toss. It is important to get big scores. We need to get beyond the 30s and 40s we are scoring now and get those 100s. We have been selling ourselves a bit short. Hopefully we will do a much better job here.”

New Zealand will probably make one change from the team that lost in Galle, with fast bowler Daryl Tuffey expected to replace seamer Iain O’Brien.

Vettori himself needs just two more wickets to become only the ninth player in history to achieve the all-rounder’s double of 3,000 runs and 300 wickets.

The 93-Test veteran was New Zealand’s star performer in Galle, with five wickets and knocks of 42 and 67 and is again expected to lead from the front.

“Records definitely motivate me,” said the 30-year-old, who has scored 3,329 Test runs and taken 298 wickets since his debut in 1997.

“If you look back five years ago, my Test batting record was pretty embarrassing. I have been working hard on it. It’s a nice feeling now that I can contribute a lot better and stay at the crease a lot longer.”

Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara said he was wary of a New Zealand backlash, saying he had a lot of respect for their fighting qualities.

“We are expecting a very tough response from New Zealand,” he said. “I think they are going to come back very strongly and try to win this Test, so that they have something to take back home. For us, we are going all out to win this game and win the series.”

Sri Lanka, who are now joint second with India in the official Test rankings, will hold the number two position on their own behind South Africa if they win the series 2-0.
But Sangakkara appeared less excited at the rankings, saying it was more important to perform consistently.

“The number two position probably reflects how well we are playing, but we are not number one, and that means we have a lot more to achieve to get there,” he said.

All-rounder Angelo Mathews was ruled out of the match with a hamstring strain picked up in Galle and he will be replaced by batsman Chamara Kapugedera, Sangakkara said.

“A few of the bowlers have niggles so we will just have to see who is fit at the toss,” he said.

“We would love to play three spinners on this track, but we have all options open.”