New Zealand will take the momentum from its dramatic one-run win over England into this week’s first Test against Sri Lanka, which could reach the ICC World Test Championship final with a 2-0 series sweep.
Tim Southee’s host 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 on trying to put out better performances,” he added,
Sri Lanka has only won two Tests of the 19 it has played in New Zealand.
But skipper Dimuth Karunaratne’s side has extra incentive this time.
It can reach the WTC final against Australia with a 2-0 series triumph, provided India fails to beat Australia in the final Test in Ahmedabad, which also begins on Thursday.
Sri Lanka is an improving and more consistent side under Chris Silverwood, who took over as head coach in April last year.
It 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 its place by winning the third Test against India in Indore within 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 batter 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 its 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 T20Is against New Zealand after the Tests.
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