S Lanka un­der­dogs in South Africa se­ries

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Sri Lanka will be un­der­dogs when they chal­lenge a resur­gent South Africa in a three-Test se­ries start­ing at St Ge­orge’s Park to­mor­row - but will hope that the tra­di­tion­ally slow pitch in Port Elizabeth will negate South Africa’s strong fast bowl­ing at­tack.

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, in Dur­ban in 2011/12. 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.

DE VIL­LIERS STILL OUT

AB 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 - both of which were won un­der the lead­er­ship of stand-in Faf du Plessis, en­abling South Africa to climb to fourth in the rank­ings 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 tightknit 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, JP Du­miny, Temba Bavuma, Quin­ton de Kock (wkt), Ver­non Phi­lan­der, Ke­shav Ma­haraj, Kyle Ab­bott, Kag­iso Rabada.

Sri Lanka (from): An­gelo Mathews (cap­tain), Di­nesh Chandi­mal (wkt), 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.—AFP

South Africa’s Faf du Plessis cuts a high ball. — AP

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