Proteas arrive in Colombo

Tourists will play two Tests and three ODIs


South African Test captain Hashim Amla (R) and fast bowler Dale Steyn (L) arrive at the team hotel in Colombo yesterday. The Proteas will play two Tests and three ODIs during their four week tour of Sri Lanka. Pic by Ishara S. Kodikara.

by Rex Clementine

The South African cricket team arrived in the island yesterday and will spend the whole of June here where they will play two Tests and three ODIs. The tourists will be led by A.B. de Villiers in ODIs while Hashim Amla will take over the Test captaincy filling the massive boots of recently retired Graeme Smith.

The Proteas have in their ranks one of the true legends of the modern game in Jacques Kallis, who is on his last tour of Sri Lanka. Kallis, 38, is retired from Test cricket, but still plays ODIs. Kallis’ stats are truly amazing as he has amassed over 13000 runs in Tests averaging 55 and 9500 runs in ODIs at 44. He also has claimed 292 Test wickets and 273 ODI wickets.

The last time Kallis played against Sri Lanka he made them pay. Kallis arrived for the third Test in Cape Town with people questioning his eyesight after he had collected a pair in the previous Test in Durban. Kallis was dropped early and the Sri Lankans regretted as he smashed a brilliant double hundred.

De Villiers, meanwhile, is world’s number one ranked Test cricketer while Dale Steyn is considered the best fast bowler in the world at the moment.

The battle between Kumar Sangakkara and Steyn is a much looked forward to one during the Test series as the Sri Lankans are making a genuine effort to improve their disappointing Test ranking. They were ranked seven before winning the second Test against England and are currently placed sixth.

The rise of Hashim Amla is one of the great stories of world cricket. A devout Muslim who has requested products promoting alcohol be removed from his gear didn’t get the approval of all South Africans when he made his entry into the team. Picked by Haroon Lorgat, then Chairman of Cricket Selectors of South Africa, there were prominent ex-South African cricketers who alleged that Amla got his place in the side due to South Africa’s quota system. One former great went onto question Amla’s technique, but 21 Test centuries and a 50 plus average have put an end to those criticism.

The tourists will play a warm-up game at De Soyza Stadium in Moratuwa on Thursday followed by the three ODIs at R. Premadasa Stadium, Pallekele and Suriyawewa. The first Test gets underway on the 16th July in Galle followed by the second Test at SSC on the 24th July.

This tour should have been a three Test series, but SLC has cut down one Test and added three ODIs. This is the three Test series that was postponed last year as SLC wanted to conduct the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL), but ended up not having both events. Initially the three Tests were postponed to 2015 but has been brought forward as both teams had a free slot in the calendar.

The reason why three ODIs have been added and a Test Match has been sacrificed is because that’s financially lucrative. But SLC has argued that the ODIs are beneficial to the team with the World Cup around the corner. However, with Sri Lanka scheduled to play seven ODIs against England later this year and seven ODIs against New Zealand next year, there’s no dearth of limited overs cricket.

The counter argument is that SLC could have a repeat dose of what they just tasted from England. The English and Wales Cricket Board gave Sri Lanka only two Test Matches in the just ended series while giving the additional Test to India entertaining them on a five Test series. Players and fans have expressed their utter disappointment at what the ECB did, but the fault lies with SLC as the board cut down a three Test home series against England in 2012 to two.

Now that SLC has cut down the South African Tests to two, the Proteas aren’t obliged to provide Sri Lanka more than two Tests in the return series.

The Proteas last won a Test Match in Sri Lanka in 2000 and don’t have happy memories of their last Test tour here in 2006. They were thrashed in the first Test by an innings at SSC as Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara added a World Record 624 runs for the third wicket. South Africa also lost the second Test by one wicket to lose the series 2-0.

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