A different coloured spin Test awaits South Africa

It’s a bit of a respite for South Africa that the red-ball journey of the tour is already over. Bowlers cannot operate at will with the white-ball in hand because of field restrictions and positive strokeplay from batsmen.

Sri Lanka tormented the visitors with spin in the Test series. It’s not going to be very different on Sunday, when they take the field for the first of five one-day internationals in Dambulla. One thing is definitely going to be different though. The white ball is not going to turn as much as the red ball did, especially with two balls being used.

In the build up to the series, the visitors worked hard on improving their batting against spin, watching video footage. The challenge is still going to be tough, for it is one thing to learn with theory and another to actually go out there in a match and execute what has been taught.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka would be desperate to get their 50-over cricket back on track as they begin preparation for the 2019 World Cup. It’s alarming that they have lost as many as 25 ODIs out of 34 since January 1, 2017 – something that captain Angelo Mathews wants his side to improve on.

The one positive though is that they won their last ODI series, involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Incidentally, they showed the required resolve to mount a comeback after losing the initial games to lift the trophy. Playing five ODIs at home is just what the team would want as they try to experiment and fill slots to find a good combination for cricket’s biggest prize.

When: Sri Lanka vs South Africa, 1st ODI, July 29, 09:45 local time

Where: Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, Dambulla

What to expect: The pitch is definitely expected to assist spinners, but with it being a morning game, the pacers would want to exploit the early morning moisture if any. Batting is likely to be better as the game progresses. The pitch could slow down if the sun comes down hard. The weather is predicted to stay good throughout the day.

Team news

Sri Lanka will have to make a forced change as they are without Danushka Gunathilka, who has been slapped with a six-match ban for disciplinary issues. Injury-prone Angelo Mathews confirmed that he will not be bowling in the series.

Squad: Angelo Mathews (c), Dasun Shanaka, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Upul Tharanga, Kusal Mendis, Thisara Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha, Akila Dananjaya, Prabath Jayasuriya, Lakshan Sandakan, Shehan Jayasuriya

After being sidelined due to injury during the ODI series against India in February, Faf du Plessis is back leading South Africa. This is the first time South Africa will be playing a 50-over series post the AB de Villiers era. The tourists went down 1-5 to India in their own backyard and their adaptability in subcontinental conditions will be seriously tested as they try to figure out a successful combination.

Squad: Faf du Plessis(c), Hashim Amla, Junior Dala, Quinton de Kock, Jean-Paul Duminy, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Willem Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi

What they said

“We would like to play better cricket than what we have been doing in limited overs. We started very well in the Test series, and hope we can continue with the momentum in the ODIs,” Angelo Mathews Sri Lankan captain.

“Even though we’ve had a poor Test series, there’s been a lot of work done on spin for a lot of batters. There’s been a lot of learning going on. We’re seeing this as a great opportunity to just get better,” Dale Benkenstein, South Africa’s batting coach.

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