SL vs RSA -2nd Test
Location: Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo
Preview by Pradeep
The last time South Africa won a series in Sri Lanka, way back in 1993 by winning the SSC Test, Sri Lanka's current coach, Marvan Atapattu was struggling for a place in the Sri Lanka eleven, having made just 1 run from his first four innings. When South Africa last played the hosts at the SSC, in 2006, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara feasted on the visitors, adding a world record 624run stand for the 3rd wicket. In a 2 match Test series, losing the first Test will leave a team with no option but to go for the kill. Sri Lanka have a proud record of not losing series at home. They have lost only twice in the last decade, but up against a top opponent in South Africa, they will have to play out of their skins to square the series.
Stung by the defeat at the Galle fortress, Sri Lanka have responded by adding Niroshan Dickwella to the squad. The 21-year-old wicketkeeper batsman, who has impressed the selectors with his keeping as well as batting skills, is likely to make his debut, in place of Dinesh Chandimal. Kaushal Silva continues to be impressive at the top while Upul Tharanga made a fairly solid contribution on his comeback to the Test squad. Kumar Sangakkara and skipper, Angelo Mathews are in superb nick, but Sri Lanka's batting problems arise at 4 and 5.
Mahela Jayawardene, who will be playing his penultimate Test at his home ground, hasn't been on top of his game while Thirimanne's batting can at best be described as bordering on the recklessness. Twice in the last match, he was tempted to poke at wide balls from Dale Steyn, and presented simple chances behind the wicket. Having made just 54 runs in his last 6 innings, time is fast running out for the Sri Lankan vice-captain.
While the batting has its fair share of troubles, the bowlers have found the going tough against a disciplined South African batting lineup. In the absence of Shaminda Eranga (who has been ruled out of the 2nd Test) the hosts were reduced to a 3man attack and that meant extra load on the spinners. Rangana Herath bowled 82 overs for the match, Dilruwan Perera bowled close to 73 overs while the only seamer, Suranga Lakmal bowled 42 overs. Have the heavy load taken a toll on them? Dhamikka Prasad, who won them the Leeds Test is most likely to return unless the hosts opt for a 3rd spinner, in which case, Ajantha Mendis will get the nod.
It has been plain sailing for the visitors so far. They shrugged off the Vernon Philander ball tampering incident with an even better bowling display in the second innings. Dale Steyn has been the inspirational figure in a team that is packed with supreme talents. Dean Elgar, drafted into opening the innings after the retirement of Graeme Smith, showed no nerves as he compiled his second Test ton. Faf du Plessis, batting in a new position at three and JP Duminy, batting as low as eight showed plenty of patience and composure to help South Africa compile a massive first innings score. If patience was was the key in the first essay, it gave way to aggressiveness and flamboyance in the second, and who better then AB de Villiers to ram home the advantage. All in all, South Africa's batting has stood up to the subcontinental conditions with panache.
On a track that was supposed to be a spinners' paradise, it was Steyn and Morne Morkel who ruled. The former now has the most number of wickets in Asia by a non subcontinental pacer. But it was Morkel who was the surprising factor at Galle, he eschewed the short ball and instead concentrated on a fuller length.
The rewards were there too, particularly in the second innings. Imran Tahir was disappointing on a surface that suited him and was even outbowled by part-timer, JP Duminy.
Vernon Philander went wicketless on his first match in subcontinental conditions, and might well face the axe if South Africa decide on a second spinner. Hashim Amla, captaining in his first series though sounded happy with his bowlers and that might mean an unchanged lineup for the visitors.
Stats and Trivia
With 4857 runs between them, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are the only two batsmen to have scored more than 2000 Test runs at the SSC.
Mahela Jayawardene needs another 2 catches to join Rahul Dravid as the only fielders with 200 Test catches.
We have seven batters in the side and to expect only one player to deliver all the time is wrong: Angelo Mathews wants his batsmen to start firing.
He had a great start, I think he is going to have an amazing career as captain. He has all the credentials; everything that you need to be a good leader, the whole team is right behind him: AB de Villiers is all praise for Hashim Amla.
South Africa (From): Dean Elgar, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla(c), AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock(w), Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Kyle Abbott, Wayne Parnell, Dane Piedt, Stiaan van Zyl
Sri Lanka (From): Kaushal Silva, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews(c), Dilruwan Perera, Niroshan Dickwella(w), Rangana Herath, Dhammika Prasad, Suranga Lakmal, Kithuruwan Vithanage, Chanaka Welegedara, Ajantha Mendis