It will be an intriguing battle when both Sri Lanka and South Africa will square off for the first time since 2016 in a two-match Test series starting from July 12 (Thursday) at Galle.
Meanwhile, last time the Proteas played in Sri Lanka, two enthralling Tests and eventually saw them win a series on the Island for only the second time, and subsequently first time in 21 years.
However, a lot has changed for South Africa since then. Captaincy has moved from now-retired AB de Villiers to Faf du Plessis.
Well, for Sri Lanka, leadership has also changed – from Angelo Matthews to Dinesh Chandimal. Furthermore, it is likely to change again depending on the outcome of Chandimal’s code-of-conduct hearing.
Chandimal could miss the entire Test series if he is found guilty regarding the recent breach. It will be worse for the host team as they will badly want Chandimal against a superior Proteas attack.
With ICC coming down heavily on ball-tampering sanctions, all the cricketers which be conscious about it.
Kusal Mendis, who has emerged as Lanka’s most accomplished young batsmen, will be keen to continue his good run.
Kusal was Sri Lanka’s top-scorer on their tour of the Windies. Meanwhile, for the Proteas, all eyes will be on speedster Dale Steyn, who is likely to come back from an injury.
The paceman Steyn had spent more than seven months on the sidelines with a heel injury.
South Africa are likely to go for a seven-batsmen, three seamers and one spin combination which will see Temba Bavuma’s slot in at No.4, replacing de Villiers, and Theunis de Bruyn at number six place. However, Lungi Ngidi will miss out for now.
There are plenty of selection headaches for Sri Lanka ahead of the first Test, owing to different factors.
Ergo, Fitness concerns loom over Rangana Herath and Kusal Perera. While Angelo Mathews returns to the side, Chandimal’s status is still unclear.
Sri Lanka: Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Dinesh Chandimal(c), Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella(w), Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Akila Dananjaya, and Lakshan Sandakan
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis(c), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock(w), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Dale Steyn, Theunis de Bruyn, Heinrich Klaasen, Tabraiz Shamsi, and Shaun von Berg
Sri Lanka: WDLWD (last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa: WWWLL
Pitch and conditions
Rain has been around owing to the build-up to the match, for a few hours each day for the last week, which could mean an interrupted Test on a pitch that has not dried out as much as the groundstaff would have hoped.
For the hosts, that means they will have to wait for enough sunshine to dry the surface out before it will offer the turn they want.
However, South Africa will welcome that news and will hope their pace battery can be more effective early on. The temperature will hover towards 30-degree Celsius with humidity of around 90% on each of the five days.
Stats and trivia:
- Dale Steyn needs three wickets to overtake veteran Shaun Pollock and become South Africa’s leading Test wicket-taker.
- Hashim Amla needs 18 more runs to get to 9,000 in Tests. If he gets there, he will be the third South African batsman to the landmark. Earlier, Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith have achieved such feat.
- Kusal Mendis needs three more tuns to become the 18th Sri Lankan to 2,000 Test runs.
The last time a Test ended in a draw in Sri Lanka was on South Africa’s last tour in July 2014, in Colombo. Since then, Sri Lanka won 11 of the 19 Test matches played.