South Africa await Sri Lankan spin test


Ball tampering is a common factor between South Africa and Sri Lanka ahead of the two-Test series that will kick-off in Galle on Thursday (July 12). While South Africa were first-hand witnesses to one of the biggest ball-tampering scandals in history that resulted in Australia’s captain and vice-captain being suspended for a year, in addition to a nine-month suspension for Cameron Bancroft, Sri Lanka’s captain Dinesh Chandimal was suspended after being found guilty of altering the condition of the ball against Windies last month.

Although Chandimal has been named in the squad, his participation in the series is unlikely owing to the disciplinary charges and a probable suspension looming large given his involvement along with coach Chandika Hathurusingha in delaying the start of play for almost two hours on the third day of the St. Lucia Test amidst the ball-tampering row. This transgression meant that they were were charged with a Level 3 offence, which carries between four and eight suspension points. Suranga Lakmal will skipper the side in the eventuality of his absence.

Grim news aside, Angelo Mathews returns to the side after the birth of his second child, although fitness concerns for Rangana Herath and Kusal Perera remain.

Irrespective of the conditions and wickets, it is no secret that South Africa’s pacemen are their strength. But if history is anything to go by, South Africa’s tour of India in 2016, that they lost 0-3, can’t validate the same. Yet, when South Africa take on Sri Lanka in the first of two Tests, it will be on their pacers that their dependency would lie, boosted this time by the return of veteran quick Dale Steyn.

Steyn, who was kept out of action with a heel injury will be playing his first international after having faced India in the Test series at home earlier in the year. He will join an attack that includes Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada – who himself makes a return to international cricket after a lower back injury had him sidelined after the end of the Test series against Australia – and Lungi Ngidi. Yet, given that South Africa’s coach had stated that conditions would determine the combination, the visitors could still field two of their three spinners of Keshav Maharaj, Tabraiz Shamsi and Shaun von Berg.

The retirement of AB de Villiers in May leaves Temba Bavuma with the chance to make the No. 4 position his own in the batting order. In the warm-up leading into the Test, Hashim Amla, Bavuma and du Plessis all were among the runs, scoring half-centuries. However, come the first Test when they are up against the wily Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya or Lakshan Sandakan, it could be a different story. How South Africa will face-up to the challenge, time will tell.

When: July 12-16, 2018, 10 am Local

Where: Galle International Cricket Stadium, Galle

What to expect: Heavy spells of rain is forecast for the next few days, typical of Sri Lanka during this time of the year

Team News

Sri Lanka: There are plenty of selection headaches for Sri Lanka ahead of the first Test, owing to different factors. Fitness concerns loom over Herath and Kusal Perera. While Mathews returns to the side, Chandimal’s status is still unclear.

South Africa: Steyn’s impending return to Test cricket is much awaited. Rabada returns from a lower back injury himself. With the two available, South Africa are likely to field three pacers with Philander completing the trio, along with two spinners.

Did you know:

– The last Test played by South Africa in Sri Lanka at the SSC in 2014 ended in a draw. Sri Lanka have hosted 19 Test matches since and all of them has produced a result with the hosts winning 11 and losing eight.

– Steyn needs three more wickets to surpass Shaun Pollock’s tally of 421 wickets and become the leading wicket-taker for South Africa in Test cricket. Out of the last six series he featured in, he was out injured in the first Test of the series four times while the other two were rain-affected draws.

– Rabada needs seven wickets in the series to become the youngest ever to take 150 wickets in Test cricket.

– Amla is 18 away from becoming the third South African batsman to reach the milestone of 9000 runs in Test cricket – after Jack Kallis (13206) and Graeme Smith (9253).

What they said:

“We will try and pick the best bowler for the conditions that we have. If the conditions are going to favour spin, we will obviously try and get another spinner into the attack. If it looks like it’s going to be a good pitch and we feel that having extra pace will make a difference to the Sri Lankans, we will also consider that option” – Ottis Gibson, South Africa coach.

Squads

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

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wk), Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Shaun von Berg

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