Galle: The first of two Tests between Sri Lanka and South Africa will start on Thursday in Galle, with the visitors’ team combination a topic of great interest.
It’s unfair to suggest that the South Africans are ill-equipped to deal with conditions in Sri Lanka based on their 3-0 defeat in India – when they just couldn’t handle Ravichandran Ashwin (31 wickets) and Ravindra Jadeja (23 wickets) – in the four-Test series in late 2015.
They are a team more used to playing in seam- and swing-friendly conditions, but the last time they made the trip across to the island nation, in 2014, they did win the two-Test series 1-0.
The big talking point in the lead-up to the match has been about Dale Steyn’s impending return to Test cricket and South Africa’s playing XI.
Popular wisdom will suggest two spinners and two pacers, but Ottis Gibson, the South Africa coach, has suggested South Africa will stick to their strength – fast bowling. In 2014, while Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath picked up 16 and 12 wickets respectively, Dale Steyn (13) and Morne Morkel (12) were seriously effective too.
Should Steyn make the final cut, and join two others out of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Lungi Ngidi, South Africa might still be tempted to field two of their three spinners – Keshav Maharaj, the first choice in Tests, Tabraiz Shamsi and Shaun von Berg.
In the only warm-up game, a two-day affair against a Sri Lanka Board XI, a lot of the South Africans showed good form: Shamsi (5/45) and von Berg (2/82) got wickets, while Hashim Amla (78), Temba Bavuma (58) and Faf du Plessis (79) scored half-centuries.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (Capt.), Suranga Lakmal, Akila Dananjaya, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Rangana Herath, Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Kumara, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Kusal Perera, Kasun Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan, Roshen Silva
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (Capt.), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wk), Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Shaun von Berg
Pitch and conditions
The forecast for the next few days is of rain, heavy spells at times.
Stats and trivia
12-16 July 2018
Start time 10:00 Local (04:30 GMT)