Gran­ite-tough Sri Lanka braced for South Africa

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG: Buoyed by vic­to­ries in their most re­cent five Test matches, Sri Lanka em­bark on a two-month tour of South Africa with a three-day match against a youth­ful South African In­vi­ta­tion XI, start­ing in Potchef­stroom to­day.

It is likely to be a rel­a­tively gen­tle in­tro­duc­tion to a tough chal­lenge in a coun­try where Sri Lanka have strug­gled on four pre­vi­ous tours. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of hav­ing to deal with South Africa’s strong fast bowl­ing at­tack on pitches with pace and bounce, the Sri Lankan bats­men prac­ticed on gran­ite sur­faces be­fore leav­ing for the tour.

Sri Lanka have been beaten in eight of the ten Test matches they have played in South Africa, with just one win and one draw. But they have done bet­ter in one-day in­ter­na­tion­als. Al­though South Africa have won 15 times on home soil, Sri Lanka have had seven wins and a tie in 2003 which ended South Africa’s hopes of pro­gress­ing in a World Cup they hosted. The cur­rent tour in­cludes three Test matches, five one-day in­ter­na­tion­als and three Twenty20 in­ter­na­tion­als.

It is Sri Lanka’s first tour of South Africa in five years and there are only five sur­vivors from the 2011/12 tour-cap­tain An­gelo Mathews, Di­nesh Chandi­mal, Ran­gana Herath, Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva.

Chandi­mal made his de­but and hit two half-cen­turies in Sri Lanka’s only Test win in South Africa, in the sec­ond Test in Dur­ban, while Herath took nine wick­ets and was man of the match. Mathews and Chandi­mal helped Sri Lanka in a 3-0 home Test se­ries win against Australia but missed a re­cent 2-0 vic­tory in Zim­babwe be­cause of in­juries.

Both are likely to be key play­ers if Sri Lanka are to chal­lenge a South African Test team which is com­ing off a third suc­ces­sive away se­ries win in Australia. Af­ter a suc­ces­sion of leg in­juries, Mathews is con­fi­dent that he will be able to play a full all-rounder’s role in a coun­try where his seam bowl­ing is likely to be needed more than in his home coun­try.

The first Test, though, is in Port El­iz­a­beth, which usu­ally pro­vides the slow­est and low­est of South Africa’s Test pitches.

The Sri Lankans ar­rived in South Africa last Sun­day and have had a full week of prepa­ra­tion in Potchef­stroom, a univer­sity town an hour’s drive from Jo­han­nes­burg which is a favoured train­ing venue for a va­ri­ety of in­ter­na­tional sport­ing teams and in­di­vid­u­als.

The In­vi­ta­tion XI con­sists mainly of some of South Africa’s most promis­ing young play­ers, led by ex­pe­ri­enced Cape Co­bras and South Africa A bats­man Om­phile Ramela. Off-spin­ner Dane Piedt is the only Test player in the side. Sri Lanka Test squad: An­gelo Mathews (cap­tain), Di­nesh Chandi­mal, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Per­era, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Dhanan­jaya de Silva, Upul Tha­ranga, Lahiru Ku­mara, Vikum San­jaya, Nuwan Pradeep, Dush­man­tha Chameera, Suranga Lak­mal, Dil­ruwan Per­era, Ran­gana Herath.

De­cem­ber 18-20, South African In­vi­ta­tion XI, Potchef­stroom De­cem­ber 26-30, First Test, Port El­iz­a­beth Jan­uary 2-6, Sec­ond Test, Cape Town Jan­uary 12-16, Third Test, Jo­han­nes­burg Jan­uary 20, First Twenty20 in­ter­na­tional, Cen­tu­rion Jan­uary 22, Sec­ond Twenty20 in­ter­na­tional, Jo­han­nes­burg Jan­uary 25, Third Twenty20 in­ter­na­tional, Cape Town Jan­uary 28, First one-day in­ter­na­tional, Port El­iz­a­beth Fe­bru­ary 1, Sec­ond one-day in­ter­na­tional, Dur­ban Fe­bru­ary 4, Third one-day in­ter­na­tional, Jo­han­nes­burg Fe­bru­ary 7, Fourth one-day in­ter­na­tional, Cape Town Fe­bru­ary 10, Fifth one-day in­ter­na­tional, Cen­tu­rion.

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