The Faf du Plessis-led South African side will look to emulate the heroics of their predecessors in 2014 © AFP
South Africa seemed a touch flat as they kept searching for that opening wicket. Eventually, their spearhead, Rabada, provided the breakthrough by dislodging Gunathilaka. It swung in the air a tad and then seamed away from the left-handed batsman to catch the edge. A trademark delivery from the impressive Rabada.
44 for 1.
The hosts have a made a fine start. Gunathilaka, in particular, has looked good, flicking and punching Philander to the boundary hoardings. Both Philander and Steyn haven’t got their lines and lengths right yet.
Faf du Plessis: It’s a no-brainer that you’d want to bat first in this part of the world. The wicket looks pretty dry. But with a bit of overhead conditions we’ll look to get it to swing a bit early on. The guys have prepared really well in the build up to this. We’ve trained very hard over the last one week, despite losing the last couple of days to rain. We have to start winning games of cricket outside home and we like testing ourselves.
Suranga Lakmal: We are looking to bat first. Angelo and Rangana come in and we are going in with three spinners and one fast bowler.
Here’s Russel Arnold with his pitch report: “We have a dry pitch with hardly any grass. The first day will be the best for batting and the ball should turn, with uneven bounce. So both sides should look to do the basics right and just sneak ahead.” — And no wonder, both sides stacking up spin. With two chinamen.
Sri Lanka (Playing XI): Dimuth Karunaratne, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella(w), Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal(c), Lakshan Sandakan
South Africa (Playing XI): Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis(c), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock(w), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Tabraiz Shamsi
Sri Lanka have won the toss and opted to bat, Crucial toss to win as it usually turns sharply as the match progresses in Galle.
The rivalry between Sri Lanka and South Africa in cricket isn’t exactly a long one. The two sides played their first-ever Test series in 1993 when the Island nation took on South Africa in a three-match Test series. Brett Schultz and Allan Donald, however, ran through the cream of the opposition ranks time and again to bag 37 scalps between them as the visitors won the series 1-0.
Since then, the two sides have locked horns over nine Test rubbers with South Africa emerging victorious in six and Sri Lanka in two – one series ended in a draw. The tourists can take the bragging rights as they have won a couple of series in Sri Lanka.
Fast forward to 2018. South Africa will aim to repeat their fine show in 2014 when they beat Sri Lanka 1-0 in their own den. It won’t be easy for the South Africa set-up to clinch the three-match rubber in the backdrop of AB de Villiers’ retirement. The likes of Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and Temba Bavuma have to step up and perform.
The visitors will bank upon their tried and tested pace attack to pick up 20 wickets in a Test. From Andy Bell, Neville Quinn, Neil Adcock, Heine, Peter Pollock, Partridge, Mike Procter, Garth Le Roux, Vintcent van der Bijl, Allan Donald, Schultz, Fanie de Villiers, Shaun Pollock, Ntini, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Philander – right down to Ngidi and Rabada – South Africa have produced a string of quality fast bowlers.
This time, too, with Steyn, Ngidi, Philander and Rabada in their ranks, they have a potent pace attack. It would also be interesting to see Steyn returning to Test cricket. The champion fast bowler has been laid by a series of injuries in the recent past. The one positive sign for South Africa is they also have a fine spinner in Keshav Maharaj to plug away and pick up wickets.
Meanwhile, the hosts would be looking to put the ball tampering saga behind them. Chandimal was found guilty of changing the condition of the ball in the second Test in St. Lucia versus West Indies and was also forced to miss the Barbados Test, which Sri Lanka went on to win by four wickets. He was handed a one-Test suspension and docked 100 per cent of his match fees. Gurusinha, Hathurusingha (coach) and Chandimal then were charged with a breach of Article 2.3.1, a Level 3 offence, which relates to “conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game”. The trio agreed not to be part of the series after the hearing for the charges laid against them for acting against the spirit of the game.
Incidentally, both Sri Lanka’s captain and coach were accused guilty of delaying the start of play for almost two hours on the third day of the St. Lucia Test amidst the ball-tampering row.
Lakmal, who marshalled the side well in the Barbados Test, will captain the unit. The hosts will again depend on spinners – the veteran Herath, Dananjaya, Dilruwan Perera, Sanadakan and co. On the plus side, Sri Lanka’s former captain Angelo Mathews is back in the set-up.
Shared News | Last updated on Thu, 12 Jul, 2018, 10:57 AM