Pitch report – P Sara Oval, Colombo

A look at the pitch at the P Sara Oval ahead of the second Test between Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

<B>Established:</b> 1982<Br><b>Capacity:</b> 15 000 (World Cup)<Br><B>Floodlights:</b> No<Br><b>Ends:</b> Air Force Flats End, Press Block End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club<br?<b>Test History:</b> 16 Tests; 7 home wins; 1 neutral win; 4 away wins; 4 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 5 home wins; 4 away wins; 1 draw<Br><b>Last 10 tosses:</b> 9 batted first (3 wins, 2 draws, 4 losses); 1 bowled first (1 win)

<b>Overview</b><BR>Formerly known as the Colombo Oval, the Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu Stadium (or P Sara Oval) is a small ground that resembles more of a club location then an international stadium due to its small stand and vast grass banks.

Once verbally lambasted for its poor facilities and lack of upkeep, in 2007 Sri Lanka Cricket launched a major initiative to upgrade the stadium's media facilities ahead of England's current tour and the 2011 World Cup.

The pitch often resembles an Australian or South African pitch rather than your typical sub-continent track in that it has far more bounce than many Sri Lankan pitches, and offers more assistance to pace bowlers. Placid at times and with short boundaries, it is potentially a batsmen's paradise.

The stadium holds great historical cricketing significance for a number of reasons. The ground hosted Sri Lanka's first Test match in 1982 against England. It was host to the first Test in the series between Australia and Pakistan – the first to be held on neutral soil. And Bangladesh have the unfortunate 'honour' of scoring the ground's lowest ever Test score – 62 all out.

<b>Last Time Out</b><BR>In April of 2012, England took on the hosts and won by eight wickets, with Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann the stars of the show for the Three Lions.

Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat, anticipating a good batting track, but Swann had other ideas and took four wickets as the hosts were all out for 275 on the morning of day two. Mahela Jayawardene made 105, while Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews added fifties.

England's reply was a masterclass in top order batting, as openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss put on 122 without much fuss. After Strauss' departure for 61, Cook went on to make 94 before falling short of his ton, while Jonathan Trott added 64.

The big knock of the innings, as England recorded 460 all out, was Pietersen's. He made 151 off a mere 165 balls, hitting 16 boundaries and half a dozen sixes. He was eventually dismissed by Rangana Herath, who took six of the wickets to fall.

India's second innings saw them again succumb to Swan,, who took six scalps to bag 10 in the game. They were all out for 278, Jayawardene top scoring with 64, leaving England a paltry 94 to chase. They did so with ease as Cook made 49 and KP 41, both unbeaten.

<b>They Said…</b><BR>England skipper Andrew Strauss after the match: "It looked like an easy victory but we knew that out in the middle it was very, very hard to prise out wickets and at times it was hard to score runs as well."

Tillakaratne Dilshan after day four: "It's not an easy wicket and won't be easy to chase 130-140. They couldn't chase 140, this is a five day wicket."

Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford after day three: "I thought it would be good to bat on right from the start but there was a bit on it on day one and yesterday it looked to have died a bit.

"There are a few things going on, the bounce is a little bit uneven from time to time but it does look as if you take your time and get yourself in and get used to the pace of your wicket you can occupy the crease and bat for long periods."

<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><BR>New Zealand all-rounder Jacob Oram is the only current player to have played here, and seeing as he no longer plays five-dayers, it means none of the current crop have featured at this venue.

As for the hosts, <b>Kumar Sangakkara</b> is the highest run-scorer here, making 805 runs in 14 innings, at an average of 61. He has a double century and four half tons here. Jayawardene also enjoys batting here and has an average of 48, while Dilshan has a century to his name.

Bowling-wise, <b>Rangana Herath</b> is third on the list and the best current bowler, having taken 15 wickets in three matches. Lasith Malinga has 12 wickets in four games. As with most venues in Sri Lanka, Muttiah Muralitharan is top of the pops, bagging 52 scalps in nine Tests.

<b>Weather Forecast</b><BR>The temperatures are set to be in the low 30s for the whole game, but rain is likely to feature in the afternoons. The first three days have heavy thundershowers predicted, while days four and five appear to be partly cloudy but dry.

<b>Conclusion</b><BR>If the Black Caps can bat for an extended period, they can look forward to a draw, if rain plays along and cuts the game into pieces. Sri Lanka have a fairly even record here so a win for the Kiwis is not impossible, but if we're honest, they're probably going to struggle.

Spinners dominate at this venue, and the visitors, as we've seen, are fairly dismal in that regard, with both bat and ball. Sri Lanka won the first Test in less than three days, and we reckon they won't have a problem taking the series 2-0.