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Du Plessis hopes to negate Sri Lankan spin on grassy track

PORT ELIZABETH: South African captain Faf du Plessis said he hoped a grassy St George’s Park pitch would negate Sri Lanka’s spin threat in the first Test starting on Monday.

“There’s a little more grass on the wicket than might be normal,” du Plessis said in his pre-match press conference. “That is making sure that we take their most dangerous player out of the game.”

Du Plessis was referring to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka’s match-winner in their only victory in 10 previous Tests in South Africa. Herath took nine wickets when Sri Lanka won in Durban in 2011-12.

But Du Plessis said it was normal for the St George’s pitch to help the spinners in the latter stages of a Test match.

“The pitch looks very dry and Sri Lanka brings a different style of play to Australia [where South Africa won a series last month]. They have really good spinners so our focus has been on making sure we prepare for that.”

Du Plessis said he was looking for more consistency from the South African batsmen.

“As a collective batting unit, each of our top seven has had good games and got hundreds but what we are looking for is more consistency and to push that bar a bit higher,” he said.

Du Plessis added that South Africa could not afford to underestimate their opponents, despite their poor record in South Africa and them having a young, largely inexperienced team.

“Young guys can pose the same threat as more experienced players, even more so sometimes because they bring something different.”

But he said he expected South Africa’s pace bowlers to pose a challenge to the tourists.

“There should be enough in the pitch for the seamers,” he said.

Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews, meanwhile, said his team had prepared well and that the young batsmen in the side had stepped up to fill the gaps left by Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan, who have all retired recently.

Even without the injured Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, South Africa’s pace trio of Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott is likely to provide a stiff examination of a Sri Lankan batting line-up which has minimal experience of coping with the kind of pitches that are found outside Asia.

St George’s Park, though, usually has less pace and bounce than South Africa’s other Test venues and the hosts have a relatively modest record there of six wins, four losses and four draws since returning to Test cricket in 1992.

It could also provide some assistance for Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka’s veteran left-arm spinner who is likely to be the biggest threat to the South African batsmen.

Herath took nine wickets and was man of the match when Sri Lanka gained their only previous Test win in South Africa.

South Africa, meanwhile, will be seeking a strong finish to a year in which there have been three different captains of the Test team.

The year started badly with Hashim Amla resigning as captain midway through a losing home series against England. That loss, which followed a 3-0 humiliation in India late in 2015, cost South Africa their number one ranking in Tests. They slipped as low as seventh after some earlier triumphs were discarded when the ratings were adjusted in May.

A.B. de Villiers was appointed captain for the last two Tests against England but a long-term elbow injury ruled him out of home matches against New Zealand and an away series in Australia.

With De Villiers still not fit enough to face Sri Lanka in the Tests — he is targeting a return in the one-day series which starts in late January — he resigned the captaincy and recommended his former schoolmate as his full-time successor.

Under du Plessis, South Africa were a tight-knit unit in Australia and coach Russell Domingo wants the side to build on their success there.

Domingo said that despite the difference in conditions from other home venues, “the guys love coming to Port Elizabeth. We feel that the wicket suits us to a degree. The ball tends to reverse swing because of the abrasive wicket.

If there is a little bit of an easterly wind or overhead conditions we are able to exploit those conditions as well.

“It’s never historically been a fast wicket, it’s a wicket where you have to be patient and you have to grind out runs. That’s the strength of this particular side, our levels of patience and being able to withstand those types of periods.”

Teams:

South Africa (likely): Faf du Plessis (captain), Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, J.P. Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada.

Sri Lanka (from): Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Dhananjaya de Silva, Upul Tharanga, Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Pradeep, Dushmantha Chameera, Suranga Lakmal, Vikum Sanjaya.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Bruce Oxenford (Australia).

TV umpire: Rod Tucker (Australia).

Match referee: David Boon (Australia).

courtesy : dawn news

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