Pitch report: Galle International Stadium
A look at the Galle pitch ahead of the first Test between Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
<b>Established:</b> 1984<br><b>Capacity:</b> 35,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> No<br><b>Ends:</b> City End, Fort End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Galle Cricket Club<br><B>Head Groundsman:</B> Jayananda Warnaweera<BR><b>Test History:</b> 20 Tests; 11 home wins; 4 away wins; 5 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 5 home wins; 2 away wins; 3 draws<br><b>Last 10 tosses:</b> 8 batted first (6 wins, 2 draws); 2 bowled first (2 draws)
<b>Overview</b><br>Rated as one of the most picturesque grounds in world cricket, the Galle International Stadium is cornered on two sides by the ocean, and is overseen by a 16th century Dutch fort.
After making its Test debut in 1998, the ground was largely destroyed by the horrific tsunami which struck the region in December 2004.
With politics at boardroom level of Sri Lankan cricket casting doubt over the ground's future, it took donations from the likes of Ian Botham and Shane Warne – who had taken his 500th Test wicket here – to get the stadium's redevelopment back on track.
It eventually completed its recovery in December 2007, when England took on Sri Lanka in the 12th Test to be played at the stadium.
Before the disaster Galle had been a stronghold for Sri Lanka, who had only lost to Australia and Pakistan as the spin-friendly pitch worked in the hosts' favour.
Not surprisingly, then, Galle has been a successful venue for Muttiah Muralitharan. The ground will be remembered as the venue of the off-spinner's 133rd and final Test match, a game in which he claimed a match haul of eight wickets to end his career with a record 800 Test scalps.
<b>Last Time Out</b><br>In June of this year, Pakistan visited Galle and lost by a hefty 209 runs in four days, with Kumar Sangakkara's 199 the stand-out innings of the match.
The hosts won the toss and chose to bat first, scoring 472 all out, with Sanga's near double ton joined by 101 from Tillakaratne Dilshan. They were the only centuries in the match as the batting from there on out was not pretty.
While the top order did the job for the Lankans, there were four ducks in the rest of the line-up, with Saeed Ajmal claiming five wickets and Mohammad Hafeez taking three. In fact, spinners on both sides did the majority of the damage in the game.
Pakistan's first innings saw them all out for a dire 100, with Rangana Herath taking three and Suraj Randiv claiming four wickets at less than two runs to the over. The knock was all done in less than 53 overs, with Younis Khan top-scoring with 29.
Sri Lanka decided to avoid the follow on, batting again and declaring on 137 for five. Dilshan made 56, though the Lankans decided to quit while they were ahead and left Pakistan to chase 510 to win.
The end of day three saw Pakistan three down for 36, and the chase looked over bar the shouting. The next day, Younis and Asad Shafiq tried to push towards the target, making 87 and 80 respectively, but it was in vain as they were all out for 300.
<b>They Said</b><br>Mahela Jayawardene after the Pakistan match: "We had only played two and half days on that wicket, so it was better for our batsmen to bat again on a wicket easier to bat on, and thereby bat Pakistan out of the game."
New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor, 15 November 2012: "The new ball will be crucial – putting the ball in the right area and asking questions. 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 hands."
<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>By far the most successful batsman at this ground is Mahela Jayawardene, who has 2193 runs to his name at an average over 75. His top score here is 237, and it is one of seven centuries he has at the ground in 32 innings.
Kumar Sangakkara is second on the list, with 1214 runs at an average of 47, while Tillakaratne Dilshan is third with 854 runs. Meanwhile, the only current Black Caps player to feature is Dan Vettori, but he isn't on the tour and only has 109 runs in four knocks anyway,
On the bowling side, Murali has by far the most wickets here, 111 to be exact, and the next best tally is 35 to Rangana Herath, in seven Tests. Ajantha Mendis is also in the top five, taking 21 scalps in four games.
Again, Vettori has the best record here for the Kiwis, but in his absence Chris Martin is the top bowler for the visitors. He has only played one game here, and took 4/77 in 2009.
<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>It's supposed to be hot and sunny all five days, with a bit of cloud cover. But given the debacle that was the ODI series, where every game was affected by rain, that could very well be a false prediction.
<b>Conclusion</b><br>This is a two-Test series, and it's difficult to see Sri Lanka losing it, given their dominance on home soil. This ground is a favourite for their players, and with their spin arsenal it would be tough to see the Black Caps coping.
The Kiwis have not had a good time against spin this year, to be euphemistic about it, and they will have a tough time against Mendis and whoever is asked to partner him on a track that is made for the turn.
So unless Ross Taylor can get someone, besides himself, to score a century or two, it's going to be tough going for the Kiwis. We reckon the Lankans should win it.
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