The first of two Tests begins on Thursday and despite coming off an easy series win over the West Indies, the tourists will be up against it at the University Oval.
New Zealand may have lost 2-0 to Australia but were competitive, and a much-publicised DRS howler may have robbed them of a victory in Adelaide.
Add to that, New Zealand haven’t lost in Dunedin since 1973. That record is a little skewed because only 12 Test matches were played at Carisbrook between 1955 and 1998 and six at the University Oval since.
Sri Lanka were also given a fright by Afghanistan in their CWC encounter in Dunedin earlier this year, before winning by four wickets and with 10 balls to spare.
Early last summer they were soundly beaten in two Tests in New Zealand.
Their lone warm-up match last week has hardly inspired confidence, drawing with an inexperienced New Zealand President’s XI which threatened to win the rain-hit fixture in Queenstown.
New Zealand are now ranked sixth in Tests, Sri Lanka seventh but the visitors will also be without Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene (coincidentally now playing a short stint for the Central Districts T20 side).
Only skipper Angelo Mathews who averages more than 50 with the bat and Rangana Herath who is seven wickets shy of the 300-Test wickets mark have played more than 30 Tests.
Sri Lanka’s coach Jerome Jayaratne has admitted his inexperienced batting line up could struggle.
But despite all these omens, Mathews is targeting a series win.
“We are going to play some really good cricket and we expect to win,” he told Cricinfo.
However, he was less certain when speaking to local media last week.
“The Test unit is very inexperienced. [They are] a whole heap of guys who haven’t played much Test cricket, but we hope to play good cricket and win,” he told 3News. (Courtesy 3news.co.nz)