Can Sri Lanka end South Africa’s unblemished record?


Rain is expected throughout the Test match and both teams were denied an opportunity to train yesterday due to wet ground conditions. Sri Lankan cricketers at the Galle International Cricket Stadium on July 11, 2018, ahead of the first Test match against South Africa. LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP

Rex Clementine
reporting from Galle

South Africa have not lost a Test series to Sri Lanka since 2006. In fact, the Proteas have lost only two series away from home in the last ten years going down to England and India since 2008. That is an excellent away record and it remains to be seen whether the Sri Lankans are able to beat several odds and overcome the tourists. The first Test starts today here in Galle.

The Sri Lankans face the prospect of playing the two-Test series without their captain, coach and manager after the trio were charged for conduct that contrary for the spirit of the game. All three have pleaded guilty for the charge and Judicial Commissioner Michael Beloff (QC) will determine the sanctions that will be announced ahead of the Test match.

Seamer Suranga Lakmal will lead the side in the absence of Chandimal. If found guilty, the accreditation of Coach Chandika Hathurusingha and Manager Asanka Gurusinha will be withdrawn and they will not be able to enter the dressing room. However, Chandimal is allowed to stay in the dressing room, but he can not enter the field of play.

"I am not sure what will happen with Chandimal. Whatever happens, we have to be mentally prepared. Even in the last Test match against West Indies, we didn’t have the captain. He is important for us but we are mentally prepared for anything," Sri Lanka’s middle order batsman Roshen Silva told journalists.

Although Sri Lanka will be without their captain, the return of opener Dimuth Karunaratne and the experienced Angelo Mathews will stand in good stead for them. Karunaratne, who scored over 1000 runs in Tests last year, was injured for the West Indies tour, Mathews returned home early from the Caribbean due to personal reasons. Veteran Rangana Herath, who split the webbing between his ring and small fingers on his right hand ahead of the last Test match against West Indies is expected to be fit.

Rain is expected throughout the Test match and both teams were denied an opportunity to train yesterday due to wet ground conditions.

Pace will be South Africa’s strength with Dale Steyn, who returns to international cricket after injury, expected to share the new ball with Kagiso Rabada. Vernon Philander is likely to be the third seamer. Steyn is chasing a personal milestone as he requires three more wickets to break Shaun Pollock’s South African record for most Test wickets. The former captain has 421 Test wickets.

"I do feel within our bowling attack that we do have the ability to get 20 wickets on whatever the surface is. I’m hoping to see Dale bowl really quick again. He hasn’t bowled for a long time, so he’ll be excited to get the opportunity again. It’s a good sight to see when he gets the ball reversing," South African skipper Francois du Plessis said. 

South Africa whitewashed the Sri Lankans 3-0 in Tests and 5-0 in ODIs when these two teams met in South Africa in 2016 where conditions were seamer friendly. Du Plessis admitted it will be tough to beat Sri Lanka at home.

"Sri Lanka in their home conditions are a different team. We played well against them in South Africa but that was in our conditions where the pitches favoured quick bowling. We’re expecting a completely different set of pitches - very dry. We look forward to some fun and games."

This year marks 25 years of bilateral cricket between South Africa and Sri Lanka since the former’s readmission to International Cricket Council following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. The teams have played 25 Tests so far with South Africa winning 14 and Sri Lanka winning five.

"As many teams know, if they want to test themselves they have to play in away conditions. I believe South Africa has got a very proud record when touring away - only losing two series, against England and India, in the last very long time. The last time we played very well here and we won a series. We expect this series to be extremely tough," Du Plessis added.

Sri Lanka (From)

Dinesh Chandimal(Captain), Niroshan Dickwella, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Roshen Silva, Angelo Mathews, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Lahiru Kumara, Lakshan Sandakan and Kasun Rajitha

South Africa (From)

Francois du Plessis(Captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Shaun von Berg and  Aiden Markram.

Umpires: Rod Tucker (Aus) and Paul Reiffel (Aus)

Third Umpire: Nigel Llong (Eng)

Match Referee: Richie Richardson (WI)

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