About the Match
One of the best things that have happened in recent times for South African cricket is the spate of injuries to its senior players. In hindsight, having to play without de Villiers, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn has forced the team to confront its future and give extended runs to people that had been on the sideline for a long time.
This also meant that the hunger shown by the South African team has been exceptional and under Faf du Plessis’s leadership, they have shown a ruthlessness that was previously missing from their game.
Take this current Sri Lanka series for example. The first test at Port Elizabeth was supposed to be the one where Sri Lanka would have got conditions most to their liking. The South African camp later revealed, however, that they had requested the groundsman for a pitch that was greener than usual and offered no turn to negate the presence of Rangana Herath in the opposition.
Now, as the series moves on to Newlands, Capetown, the conditions are going to be much more in favor of South Africa and give them the perfect opportunity to wrap up the series.
The South African record at Newlands is exceptional. They have never been beaten by an Asian team on this ground and have beaten Sri Lanka three times in the past. The nature of those defeats was crushing and South Africa would be looking for a similar result this time around.
There is no change expected in the Proteas camp for this match and even though they would love to include a fast bowling all-rounder in their playing eleven, the current attack of four specialist bowlers is likely to be persisted with.
South Africa have the luxury of using JP Duminy and Temba Bavuma to afford rests to their fast bowlers if so needed but they were both ignored in the first test.
With a seaming and bouncy surface on offer, Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbot will be very difficult to face up to. Kagiso Rabada also might favor the increased pace in the surface and be back to his best after a middling performance in the first test.
We think that Kyle Abbot with a combination of swing and pace is the best bet for being the highest wicket-taker in the innings.
Keshav Maharaj was given a much more significant role in the second innings of the first test match but he may be limited to a purely holding role in this second test match.
The South African batsmen all made runs in the first test with Stephen Cook being the highest scorer in the match. His perseverance and patience make him a good candidate to continue scoring runs in the test series.
The pressure will be on Hashim Amla and JP Duminy to try and secure their positions before AB de Villiers comes back into the team. We think that 2017 will be much better for Amla than his wretched 2016 and back him to come good in this test as well.
Sri Lanka fought well in the second innings after making a complete mess of their first attempt at batting against the South Africa test team on this tour. There was, however, too much ground to make up and it left them fighting a hopeless battle.
Their captain stressed this point in the press conference and hoped that the second test would see batsmen avoid making the same mistakes.
With the openers redeeming themselves in the second innings and most other batting slots covered, the only real question is over Kusal Perera’s place in the team. He is a naturally attacking player that fell playing rash shots in both the innings of the first test. Do Sri Lanka persevere with him and hopes that he will come off sooner rather than later or do they recognize that the scope of the challenge will be much more in Newlands and bring in a more sedate replacement?
Upul Tharanga is traveling with the squad and could come in to bat at number three, which is something that we think is likely to happen.
The bowling attack did well in patches before being rendered totally ineffective on a pitch that continued to get flatter as the days wore on. The same is expected to happen in this test match as the grass covering the pitch settles down, although, Newlands has traditionally favored the seamers throughout the five days of play.
Kusal Mendis is one of the most impressive young batsmen to emerge from Sri Lanka in recent times. He looked very good in the second innings and had the attack at his mercy before gifting it away. We hope that he would have learned from his mistake and go on to score a substantial total in this second test match.
His technique and proficiency against fast bowling make him the batsmen most likely to top-score for Sri Lanka.
Batting slightly lower down the order is Angelo Mathews, the captain of Sri Lanka, and someone who has clearly been targeted by South Africa as a danger man. His second innings performance would have given him a lot of confidence and he would hope that his team is a lot more competitive this time around.
The toss will be crucial as the team bowling first will have an advantage on this pitch. Expect both teams to ask the opposition to bat first.
For Sri Lanka, the ideal situation would be one where they win the toss and get South Africa out cheaply before using the easing conditions to score runs and put pressure on them in the second innings. Sound easy right?
The bowling led by Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal and Dushmantha Chameera will need to be much more consistent than the first test and keep sustained pressure on the South African batsmen. We think that Nuwan Pradeep might be the bowler best suited to take advantage of the conditions on offer at Newlands.
The task of winning at Cape town against South Africa is not easy and we don’t see Sri Lanka coming close. An innings victory might be in the offing here