Rex Clementine in Johannesburg
South Africa’s star batsman Hashim Amla will feature in his 100th Test when South Africa take on Sri Lanka at the Wanderers Stadium here in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Amla will become the eighth South African to play 100 Tests and the first non-white batsman. The only non-white South African to have featured in 100 Tests is fast bowler Makaya Ntini.
Amla, the 33-year-old top order batsman has had a quiet series by his standards. He has not made a half-century in this series and after four innings has a top score of 48. During this series his career average also dropped below 50.
A youngster coming from the cricket crazy town of Moratuwa, Vishva Chathuranga’s rise to the junior national set up came following a purple patch playing for the 1st XI at Prince of Wales’ College.
Sri Lanka’s Dhananjaya de Silva speaking to journalists said that the tourists will try and keep him quiet during his 100th Test.
“He’s a brilliant player. Every brilliant player can achieve something like that if they keep working hard. But he’s not in form in this series. Hopefully it will be the same in this match as well.”
Sri Lanka’s training session on Monday was hampered as the side nets were unavailable as water had seeped through after rain in Johannesburg on Saturday. The batsmen had an extended training session on Tuesday and will have another session on Wednesday prior to the final Test the following day.
South Africa is eyeing a 3-0 whitewash after convincing victories in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.
If you tell the Sri Lankans who are over the age of 35 to pick their favourite South African cricketer.
The conditions in Johannesburg will be quite different from the ones in the first two games. In Port Elizabeth and Cape Town the wickets seamed a lot. Johannesburg, meanwhile, will have lot of carry and bounce more than seam movement.
“At Wanderers I think there’s extra pace and bounce, but as a subcontinent nation it’s the seam movement that makes things difficult for us. I’m hopeful that this wicket will be good for batsmen,” Dhananjaya noted.
Sri Lanka’s batting has been a massive let down in the series with just two batsmen making half-centuries after four innings. Dhananjaya himself has got starts, looked good and then had thrown it away.
“I don’t think we need to make huge changes when it comes to our approach with batting. But we do need to adjust to the situation better. We need to limit our shots. We can’t hit shots all around the ground like in Sri Lanka, or even in Zimbabwe, where we just completed a series. We’ve got to set boundaries for ourselves about where we are not going to score and which balls we aren’t going to go after.”
He identified Vernon Philander as the toughest of the three South African bowlers to face. “Philander is the main one. He doesn’t give many runs at all and he takes wickets as well. He hardly bowls a loose ball. From the other side Rabada isn’t quite as tight, though he gets wickets. Of the three seamers, I would say that Philander is toughest.”
Sri Lanka’s premier fast bowler Lasith Malinga has been ruled out of the current Sri Lanka’s tour of South Africa.
Dhananjaya had an outstanding series against Australia six months ago where he accumulated 325 runs, the most by a batsman from either side. He averaged 66 in that series and his contributions at number seven were vital as Sri Lanka whitewash the Aussies 3-0.
The long-term plan was Dhananjaya to step up to number three or four but that was hastened after Kusal Janith’s poor show in the first Test. Currently Dhananjaya bats at number four.
“It’s not much of a difference because I’m an opener in the club and in the ‘A’ team. It’s not too different a thing for me whether I am batting at number four or seven. When I bat at number seven, a lot of the time, my job was to bat with the tail. I often try to score quick runs because the tail is vulnerable and we need to get as many as possible for the team. When I go second drop, sometimes I can’t play my strokes, because I’m trying to play a long innings,” Dhananjaya said.
His preferred position in the batting line up, however, he said is number seven.
“I’ve played at seven in lots of matches and I think that’s a position in which I can get some runs. At number four, it’s a different role. We have to stay in the wicket and get some runs. I prefer number seven.”