The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rain clouds over Kandy

Kandy: Sri Lanka’s poor record at Kandy is hanging over the home side as ominously as the grey rain clouds ahead of the second Test against New Zealand starting Saturday.

Sri Lanka have lost seven and won only four of the 14 Tests played at the Asgiriya Stadium, which has often proved to be the host team’s Waterloo since it made the Test grade two decades ago.

Two of these four victories came during successive series against the West Indies and Zimbabwe, which were part of Sri Lanka’s nine-Test home winning sequence that ended with a draw in the first Test against New Zealand earlier this week.

New skipper Hashan Tillekeratne, who took over from Sanath Jayasuriya, rejected suggestions that Kandy is a jinxed venue for Sri Lanka.

“It is just that we have not played well in some matches here, but I don’t read too much into our past performance,” said Tillekeratne, on the eve of the second and last Test against New Zealand.

“I don’t believe there is anything like a jinxed venue, the result of every Test depends on how you perform,” added Tillekeratne, who wants an improved performance from his players after a number of dropped catches in the first Test.

The missed chances in Colombo ended Sri Lanka’s victory sequence of nine home Tests, which began with the final Test of the 2001 series against India in Colombo that gave the islanders a 2-1 series triumph.

Riding on the success of their spin bowlers, particularly Muttiah Muralidharan, Sri Lanka expectedly trounced minnows Bangladesh in two Tests before inflicting 3-0 defeats on the West Indies and Zimbabwe.

The Black Caps, who have been amused at Sri Lanka’s indifferent Kandy record despite their otherwise dominant home performance, are drawing confidence from the 165-run triumph in their only previous outing here.

New Zealand coach Denis Aberhart is pleased at his team’s performance in “alien conditions” but wants his bowlers to be tidy.

“We have been giving away too many four-run balls,” Aberhart said. “We need to cut down their boundaries and put them under pressure.”

‘Murali not a worry’

New Zealand’s batsmen were no longer worried by Muralidharan’s tweakers, skipper Stephen Fleming said. “We have seen almost everything he can bowl, he is no more a threat than he was a week ago,” said Fleming.

“If you show the right technique, you can handle him with ease,” Fleming added. “Considering the amount of spin he produces, he is relatively easy to play.

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