CAPE TOWN: Another seam-friendly wicket stacks the odds overwhelmingly in favour of hosts South Africa when they take on Sri Lanka in the second Test at Newlands, starting on Monday.
The middle contest in a three-match series comes just two days after South Africa completed a 206-run victory at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth in the Boxing Day Test.
That surface was supposedly the closest Sri Lanka would get on their tour to conditions that would allow spin spearhead Rangana Herath to make an impact.
Even then, it proved a contest where the home side were in firm control, though the visitors did provide some dogged resistance at times.
At Newlands, the bowling trio of Kyle Abbott, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada will again be looking to dominate the batsmen, with captain Faf du Plessis insisting three seamers would be enough, even if it does put their stamina to the Test with just two free days between matches.
“The seam attack has proven we can do it with three,” he said after the first Test success. “The key is obviously not to have anyone breaking down.”
Last year’s New Year’s Test at Newlands saw South Africa battered by Ben Stokes’ record-breaking 258 from 198 balls as they lost a home series to England and their place as the top Test side in the International Cricket Council rankings.
But, even without talismanic A.B. de Villiers and Dale Steyn, South Africa have since beaten New Zealand and Australia and set their target on a much improved 2017 in which they will go to England and then host Bangladesh and India.
“It’s important for this team that even though we are playing really well, we must make sure that we look at areas, especially when we are winning, where we can improve,” said du Plessis.
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews spoke about the need for his team to be mentally tough but they also need some changes in personnel.
In losing the first Test in Port Elizabeth by 206 runs, Sri Lanka showed weaknesses in both batting and bowling.
While South Africa seem certain to go into the match with an unchanged team, Mathews admitted there would be debate in the Sri Lankan camp about the composition of their side.
Kusal Perera’s role as an attacking number three batsman could come in for particular scrutiny. He was out for seven and six in Port Elizabeth, on both occasions playing ill-judged cut shots.
With Perera having been compared to Sanath Jayasuriya, on whom he has based his game, Mathews said he would not like to see the young left-hander abandon his attacking instincts.
But Mathews said that slashing at South Africa’s fast bowlers on pitches with pace and bounce “wasn’t the right game plan”.
He said he was not sure whether changes would be made but acknowledged that Upul Tharanga, a more conservative left-hander, was an option. “He can bat from one to seven.”
Whereas in sub-continental conditions Sri Lanka usually base their bowling attack on spin, they opted in Port Elizabeth for three pace bowlers and only one specialist spinner in veteran Rangana Herath.
Although Suranga Lakmal bowled well, taking five wickets in the first innings, the fast bowlers seldom threatened in the second innings, when South Africa made 406 for six declared.
Dusmantha Chameera was disappointing, taking only one wicket in the match and conceding 153 runs at more than five runs an over.
Mathews indicated, however, that Chameera could be given another chance.
Defeat in Port Elizabeth ended a run of five successive Test victories for Sri Lanka, whose last home series was a convincing whitewash of Australia in mid-year but they remain unconvincing on the road.
They have lost nine of 11 previous Tests in South Africa. Sri Lanka were beaten by an innings and 229 runs and by 10 wickets in their two previous Tests at Newlands.
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 Rod Tucker (Australia).
TV umpire: Bruce Oxenford (Australia).
Match referee: David Boon (Australia).
couretsy : dawn news