About the Match
South Africa will host Sri Lanka in the first test match of their tour beginning on boxing day on what promises to be a wonderful occasion. For Sri Lanka, tours to South Africa have not been too successful and even though they won their last boxing day appearance in the country by over 200 runs, they would need something special to require a similar result this time around.
The Proteas have had a wonderful run in test matches recently beating Australia in Australia 2-1, have a young team with plenty of promise and a new captain that seems to have the backing of the entire team behind him.
Things are going so well in fact that no one is even worried about the absence of the best Batsman in the world, A B DeVilliers or that of the great Dale Steyn or even that of the menacing Morne Morkel. Their replacements have done so well in the opportunities they have been given that South Africa has gone from a period of never-ending transition after the retirement of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis to being secure in the talent pool they have for the future.
Faf Du Plessis may have recently lost his appeal against the ball tampering verdict but looked completely at ease before his first series as full-time captain of South Africa. There may be tough times ahead of him in the future but everything that he touches turns to gold right now.
Three of the main architects of South Africa’s recent successes have been youngsters, Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada. All the three players have taken to international cricket like complete naturals and will provide South Africa with problems of plenty when the currently injured players regain full form.
All three of those players will be very motivated to make a strong statement against Sri Lanka and cement their places in the side further.
The one area of concern that might trouble the South Africans somewhat is the waning prowess of Hashim Amla. His batting returns have been poor of late and he was also the only South African Batsman not to register a half-century in the recently completed tour of Australia.
His experience and position as number three batsman of the side are invaluable and so the entire country will be hoping for a return to form sooner than later.
The opening positions of the South African team are also not quite set in stone and both Elgar and Cook will know that they are only a few failures away from being pushed out of the team.
Players To Watch Out for
: Quinton de Kock is one of the most exciting batsmen in cricket today. His counter-attacking game can change the complexion of the game in just a few sessions. We back him to continue in the same vein of form he has displayed recently and be one of the top scorers in the series.
Hashim Amla is due for runs. His clockwork-like consistency in the past meant that he was the most bankable batsman in the world. We think he will find his mojo in this series and make Sri Lanka suffer in a big way.
The Islanders have played 10 tests in South Africa, winning only the one and losing 8. That is a dismal record that will weigh heavily on the tourists. Angelo Mathews, their skipper, will know that the task ahead of his young team is gigantic and even the team's most hopeful supporters will be worried about the weeks ahead of them.
Sri Lanka is also a team that is transitioning from the retirement of legends of the game and that has meant playing with an inexperienced team struggling to find its feet. In the last few series, though, it looks like Sri Lanka has found some excellent batsmen and a couple of very dangerous bowlers to lend teeth to their challenge.
Kusal Mendis and Dhanajaya de Silva were both playing in a zone out of the ordinary against Australia at home. They proceeded to recover from some very poor positions to eventually whitewash the Aussies overturning an extremely poor record.
Angelo Mathews himself has the ability to win matches with the bat and pick up crucial wickets with the ball as well. He is also one of three players along with Dinesh Chandimal and Ranagana Herath to have tasted victory in South Africa.
The Sri Lankan players will also find that the pitch at St.George’s Park is probably the most hospitable one that they will find on tour. It plays slow and sometimes spins prodigiously giving touring teams an excellent opportunity to win the game.
Of course, when it comes to taking advantage of turning tracks, there is scarcely a better exponent than Ranagana Herath. The seasoned campaigner will not be the same kind of threat as he is in Sri Lanka but he could well be a handful on a fourth-fifth day wicket at Port Elizabeth.
This Sri Lankan team should be not be counted out before the series begins.
Players To Watch Out For
: Kusal Perera is an outrageous batsman that believes aggressive batting is the only way to tackle the new ball. The hard bouncy wickets in South Africa may provide him the canvas he is looking for.
Kusal Mendis is a young batsman with a technique that appears to be tailor-made for international cricket. This could be the series when the world truly begins to take notice of his talent.
: South Africa are being hospitable hosts by playing the first test on a slow, low Port Elizabeth wicket and could live to regret it. Sri Lanka though are poor starters on tour and may need more time to really throw up a challenge.
South Africa To Win.