Sri Lanka vs South Africa, 1st Test, Preview: Steyn in the limelight as the Proteas face the uncertain Islanders

Will the hosts be able to break the 12-year jinx against the Proteas?

Faf du Plessis and Dinesh Chandimal
Faf du Plessis and Dinesh Chandimal. (Photo Source: ICC)

The first of the two-match Test series between Sri Lanka and South Africa, at first glance, is definitely not one of the alluring match-ups. The visitors have won most of the recent contest against the Islanders in whites both home and away as Sri Lanka will be looking to break the jinx this time around. However, they are left uncertain with the ban looming over their skipper Dinesh Chandimal who is the best batsman of the current squad by a long way.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is expected to give its verdict over the level three offence which the captain Chandimal, coach and the manager have been charged for their conduct in West Indies which was contrary to the spirit of the game. They have pleaded guilty for their actions and the trio could be banned for the whole series. The uncertainty in the camp over his place should keep the hosts on the tenterhooks in the lead up to the game.

South Africa, on the other hand, are playing their first series after AB de Villiers’ retirement and it will be interesting to see how the middle-order stacks up in his absence. They will be tested with the huge amount of spin-bowling as well and expect the tracks to be turning from the word go after what transpired in 2015 in India. The coach of the Proteas, however, was confident of his team coming out on top this time around.

Interestingly, if Chandimal plays, it will also be the two captains locking horns with the history of ball tampering incidents behind them. Faf du Plessis has already commented that he needs more clarity over the same and the umpires will keep a stern eye on the proceedings in the middle.

Team Combinations

Sri Lanka

As of now, Chandimal will lead the side in the first Test for Sri Lanka but if the verdict comes overnight and he is banned, Suranga Lakmal will take over the reins with immediate effect. Dimuth Karunaratne has returned from injury and will open the innings. Angelo Mathews is also back for the hosts which should boost the middle-order. Kusal Perera and Rangana Herath both are fit and raring to go which should please the management.

Herath will lead the bowling attack and Dilruwan Perera will partner him which has been the norm while playing at home for Sri Lanka. If the pitch has more bite in it, we might see either of Lakshan Sandakan or Akila Dananjaya making it to the eleven as well.

Probable XI: Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal (c)/Dhanajaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal (vc), Kasun Rajitha

South Africa

If the performances in the warm-up game are anything to go by, Temba Bavuma will replace De Villiers at number 4 in the line-up. Dale Steyn should also be back after with Lungi Ngidi making way for him in the playing XI. Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram will open the innings followed by Hashim Amla. The skipper Du Plessis will look to guide the innings right through at 5 and Quinton de Kock will bat at 6 which gives them an attacking option down the order.

Apart from Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada will make up the pace bowling attack. Keshav Maharaj will be the first spinner without any doubt. The team management will now have to decide whether to go with five proper bowlers with Tabraiz Shamsi playing only his second Test after making a debut in November 2016, or include Theunis de Bruyn who is an all-rounder and bats at 6 which will prompt De Kock to bat at 7.

Probable XI: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (wk) Theunis de Bruyn/Tabraiz Shamsi, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn

Focus will be on

Kusal Mendis (Sri Lanka)

Kusal Mendis has been batting beautifully over the last few months. He played with maturity in the tough conditions in West Indies and much will depend on how he carries himself in this series. He is likely to bat at number 3 with the return of Karunaratne in the side and has to score big to help his side beat the Proteas for the first time in the last 12 years in Tests.

Aiden Markram (South Africa)

Aiden Markram is a class player and South Africa might have finally found a permanent opening partner for Elgar. He was wonderful to watch against the testing bowling attacks of India and Australia earlier this year at home and this series presents him with another challenge of tackling the quality spin-bowling. It will be interesting how he shapes up in these two matches and supports his partner at the top of the order.

Stat Attack

1997 – Kusal Mendis needs three more runs to complete 2000 runs in Test cricket.

8982 – Hashim Amla has scored 8982 runs in his Test career so far. He needs 18 more runs to become the 3rd South African to score 9000 runs in this format.

Head to Head

Played – 25, South Africa – 14, Sri Lanka – 5, Draw – 6

Broadcast details– Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 1 HD

Live streaming– Sony LIV

Match Timings: 10:00 IST, 04:30 GMT

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