The traditionally spin-friendly Galle International Stadium is a happy hunting ground for the hosts, who have won five, drawn one and lost one of their last seven Tests there.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and off-spinner Suraj Randiv called the shots in Sri Lanka’s last two Test victories at the venue, when they shared 30 wickets against England and Pakistan this year. Sri Lanka, fresh from their 3-0 one-day series win over the tourists, have also named a third specialist spinner, 19-year-old Tharindu Kaushal, in the squad along with Herath and Randiv.
Ross Taylor’s New Zealand have already lost much of their bowling strength in the absence of match-winning left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori, who was ruled out of the tour after failing to recover from an Achilles strain. Off-spinner Jeetan Patel is the most experienced specialist slow bowler in the Kiwi squad with 47 wickets in 15 Tests, while leg-spinner Todd Astle has yet to make his Test debut.
Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene said his team were looking forward to the Test series. “We haven’t played Test cricket for some time now and we’ll try to be as consistent as possible. We still need to improve but we’re working hard,” he said.