South Africa, the last assignment in the Sri Lanka national team’s four-month long grueling schedule before the all-important World Cup, will commence on 13th of February with the 2-match Test series followed by 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is.
The 1st Test match is scheduled to be held at Kingsmead cricket ground, Durban where the record reads as 1-0 out of 2 Tests in favor of Sri Lanka (yes, you read that right!). The islanders surprisingly have never lost a Test match there, with their 2 games there seeing their only win in the rainbow nation under the captaincy of Tillakaratne Dilshan in 2011 and only drawn test which was a rain hit boxing day Test match in 2000.
Unfortunately, this is a meet up of two of the most contrasting teams you could ever imagine when you consider the recent form they have displayed. Proteas haven’t lost a Test series at home for three years with a 7- series winning streak at home behind them, having won 15 out of 18 Tests they’ve played during that time. They sit just below top placed India in the Test rankings whereas Sri Lanka are 21 rating points behind them. Sri Lanka’s recent Test record is abysmal. Though they were expected to struggle with the conditions in New Zealand and Australia, the way the Lankans performed was disappointing.
The last Test series between these sides ended in 2-0 embarrassment for visiting South Africa. Yet South Africa promised to give Sri Lanka a taste of their own medicine when they hosted the Lions and the time is ripe for the Proteas to make the most of this stable ‘captain-less’, pace derailed, inexperienced and injury prone Sri Lankan side who are yet to taste any kind of victory since October 2018.
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Sri Lanka’s batsmen struggled against the fast-moving balls in New Zealand and were struck numerous times by fiery bouncers in Australia. Put these together and you get South Africa. Top ranked Kagiso Rabada, rejuvenated Dale Steyn, precise Vernon Philander and the newest headache from Bloemfontein, Duane Olivier will complete the four horsemen bowling army who will be licking their lips in anticipation to snatch any remaining soul from this tired and winless Sri Lankan batting line up.
The selection committee of Sri Lanka have put up a fresh-faced squad, making significant changes to the batting order. Captain Dinesh Chandimal, middle order batsman Roshen Silva and Sadeera Samarawickrama who didn’t play any Tests in last few months are the ones who made way for Kaushal Silva, Milinda Siriwardene, Oshada Fernando and Angelo Perera who have been scoring heavily at the domestic level. Stand in captain Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis and Lahiru Thirimanna will have to take the responsibility of guiding these fresh faces if they are to put up any kind of fight against the fiery South African bowling line up.
On the bowling front there isn’t much to talk about either. Duanne Olivier who was recalled for the last series vs Pakistan, played all 3 games and was named Man of the Series with a dream performance of 24 wickets in 3 matches. Meanwhile for Sri Lanka, 7 pacers managed just 18 Wickets in two matches in Australia. Left arm spinner Lasith Ambuldeniya and fast bowler Mohomed Shiraz have received maiden national call ups to accompany the inexperienced Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha and Chamika Karunaratne. Lone warrior Suranga Lakmal will have much to do if visitors are to gain any kind of momentum in the match.
Sri Lanka Probable XI: Dimuth Karunaratne©, Kaushal Silva, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Milinda Siriwardene, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Laksan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando.
Exciting All-Rounder Wiaan Mulder is the only addition to the South Africa Test squad which whitewashed Pakistan 3-0 last month in place of Lungi Ngidi who is recovering from a knee injury.
South Africa Probable XI: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Theunis de Bruyn, Faf Du Plessis©, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk),, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Duanne Olivier, Kagiso Rabada