South Africa vs Sri Lanka: Test of characters for beleaguered Dimuth Karunaratne and Co as Proteas eye revenge

South Africa have an axe to grind with the Sri Lanka. Last year when they toured the island, they played the two-Test series on dust bowls that turned from the first session. Conditions favoured spinners so much that at times the hosts handed the new ball to their spinners.

Rex Clementine, Feb 12, 2019 13:27:09 IST

A second string bowling attack and a fragile middle-order have compounded Sri Lanka's problems as the tourists get ready for their six-week long tour of South Africa in Kingsmead, Durban on Wednesday where the first Test will be played.

The Sri Lankans have been away from home since December first week and are on such a very schedule that they undertake the South African challenge without even a warm-up game.

File image of Sri Lanka's stand-in skipper Dimuth Karunaratne. AP

File image of Sri Lanka's stand-in skipper Dimuth Karunaratne. AP

Adding to their list of problems is how Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins exposed the batsmen's deficiencies against the short ball on previous tour of Australia. Expect plenty of that in South Africa. In Australia at least, the Sri Lankans had to only put up with Starc and Cummins. Here they will be given a double dose with Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Duanne Olivier waiting to run over them.

(The first South Africa vs Sri Lanka Test at Durban starts from 13 February. The match will shown on Sony Pictures Network)

The South Africans have a selection headache. Which fast bowler to leave out? Considering experience, Olivier should get the chop but he was South Africa's best bowler by a mile during their clean sweep of Pakistan recently. Olivier took 24 wickets at 14 that included three five wicket hauls with Rabada finishing with 17 wickets at 18.

South Africa are unlikely to go without a spinner at Durban, which means Keshav Maharaj will get a game at his home ground. He also had an impressive series in Sri Lanka last year where he broke Imran Khan's record that had stood for 36 years. Maharaj took nine wickets in an innings to improve on Imran's eight for 58, the best bowling figures in an innings against Sri Lanka.

South Africa have been extremely dominant at home in recent years having lost just two series in the last ten years. However, Durban is not one of their happy hunting grounds. In the last ten years, they have played eight Tests in Durban, won one and lost six. Among those defeats are a first-ever defeat to Sri Lanka at home in 2011, when they lost by 208 runs.

On that occasion, Rangana Herath ran through the opposition taking nine wickets. Considering which, it was surprising that Sri Lanka have not included the experienced Dilruwan Perera in their squad. Perera had a tough series in Australia where he picked up just two wickets in two Tests. But he was world's second highest wicket-taker in 2018 finishing with 50 scalps behind Rabada's (52).

Instead of Perera, Sri Lanka have named 22-year-old left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya, who is expected to make his debut in the first Test. The former Royal College spinner's departure to South Africa was delayed as he had not received his visa and the tourists will assess his condition before handing him the Test cap. The tourists also have left-arm wrist-spinner Lakshan Sandakan in the squad.

Middle-order batsman Angelo Perera, who was called up to the squad after becoming the second man in the history of first-class cricket to score double hundreds in each innings is also expected to make his debut.

Sri Lanka have no survivors from the team that created history by winning their only Test in South Africa eight years ago. Dinesh Chandimal, who made his debut in Durban eight years ago, has been axed while Angelo Mathews is injured. Thisara Perera also featured in that game sharing the new ball with Chanaka Welegedera but he doesn't play the longer format of the game anymore.

The Proteas have an axe to grind with the Sri Lankans. Last year when they toured the island, they played the two-Test series on dust bowls that turned from the first session. Conditions favoured spinners so much that at times the hosts handed the new ball to their spinners.

Skipper Faf Du Plessis warned the Sri Lankans to expect a taste of their own medicine when they tour South Africa in 2019 and it remains to be seen how the Proteas will go about things. Dean Elgar, the opener also wasn't quite pleased with the conditions. Elgar said that throughout the series despite being an opener he didn't face a single ball of seam.

Sri Lanka Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (Captain), Niroshan Dickwella, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Milinda Siriwardana, Dhananjaya de Silva, Oshada Fernando, Angelo Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando, Chamika Karunaratne, Mohamed Shiraz, Lakshan Sandakan and Lasith Embuldeniya

South Africa Squad: Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, Francois du Plessis(c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Dean Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn, Zubayr Hamza, Keshav Maharaj, Wiaan Mulder, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn.

Updated Date: Feb 12, 2019 13:27:09 IST







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