|Finished.621 - 396/9 & 180/9|
For anyone who has seen what South African cricket team were capable of at virtually any point between the mid 90s and the mid 2010s, it feels terrible to see their current state of affairs. Their current plight doesn’t seem to have a solution in the foreseeable future, and it will most likely be a while before they are in a position to start coming back. Right now, however, they are on equal footing against their upcoming opponent. The first line of this article applies almost doubly so for Sri Lanka, who have had very little triumph to speak of in the international arena since the last of their own golden generation hung up their jerseys. As far as rankings go, Sri Lanka and South Africa are at fifth and sixth place respectively on the ICC Test rankings, while over on the ICC World Test Championship, Sri Lanka are a couple of places above South Africa. Both would like to win this series, and before the teams charge at each other, let’s take a better look at them.
South Africa Squad, Preview, Form, and Key players
Announced squad: Quinton de Kock (c/wk), Temba Bavuma, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Rassie van der Dussen, Sarel Erwee, Anrich Nortje, Glenton Stuurman, Wiaan Mulder, Kyle Verreynne (wk).
Predicted XI for first Test: Quinton de Kock (c/wk), Temba Bavuma, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Rassie van der Dussen, Sarel Erwee, Anrich Nortje, Glenton Stuurman.
The most repeated question when one hears the names of this South Africa must be ‘Who?’ There’s a bevy of new players on the Proteas squad, and only a couple of names look familiar to anyone who’s been watching cricket for a while. Nevertheless, there’s still some solid talent.
The likes of de Kock, Bavuma, van der Dussen, and the perennially in-form du Plessis should be a decent threat to Sri Lanka’s relatively inexperienced bowling lineup. On the other hand, the likes of Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi should be able to exploit South African pitches to the fullest. It’s just sad that Kagiso Rabada is out with a groin injury - the Proteas could really have used his excellent services.
Quinton de Kock: de Kock might be a more prolific figure in limited overs formats, but given that he has shown that he can step up and carry the team when needed, this would be an ideal opportunity for him to cement his name as one of the legends of South African cricket.
Faf du Plessis: With experience thin on the ground, and in solid form from his stints in the IPL and the incomplete series against England, du Plessis will be looked upon for holding the batting together.
Lungi Ngidi: He might be expensive at times, but with economy being less of a factor in Tests, his wicket-taking abilities will take the forefront.
Anrich Nortje: After a fantastic showing at this year’s IPL where he helped take his team to its maiden final, Nortje must now do his best for his country - for which he’s already building up a good reputation.
Sri Lanka Squad, Preview, Form, and Key players
Announced squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Kusal Janith Perera, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Kusal Mendis (wk), Oshada Fernando, Dhananjaya De Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Minod Bhanuka, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lasith Embuldeniya, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Dushmantha Chameera, Dasun Shanaka, Santhush Gunathilake, Asitha Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka.
Predicted XI for first Test: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Kusal Janith Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Oshada Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Lahiru Thirimanne, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal.
Sri Lanka have been rebuilding, and rebuilding well. Plenty of players from their current squad were excellent in the recently-completed Lankan Premier League, and they will be instrumental in any tours from here on. With Karunaratne, Perera, Fernando, and Dickwella behind the bat, the team should be able to see out Ngidi and Nortje long enough for the more inexperienced bowlers to come on, and then take advantage of them. On the other hand, Sri Lanka no longer has their perennial weakness of only having fast-medium bowlers, with Kumara and Chameera both regularly cracking 145 km/h. Throw in Fernando and Rajitha, and you have enough firepower to take South Africa out and then some.
Key playersDimuth Karunaratne: The Lankan captain has steady hands and a steady mind, and the Test is his best format.
Oshada Fernando: This talented newbie will hopefully be Sri Lanka’s anchor with the bat.
Lahiru Kumara: Kumara’s deadliness with the ball will be more pronounced given the South African pitches - as long as he can adapt to the conditions.
Kasun Rajitha: With prior experience in South Africa, Rajitha will be instrumental to Sri Lanka’s hopes.
Despite having been dominated by South Africa in their early years, Sri Lanka have been triumphant against the Proteas in their last two series. Historically, South Africa leads with 14 wins to 9 (and 6 draws), but the Lankans have won the last four matches the two played, which will no doubt aid them mentally.
First Test weather and pitch conditions
The first two days should be partly cloudy, with chances of showers on the third day before the last two days switch back to the previous weather. The temperature and humidity should be pleasant for both teams.
Strongly favouring fast bowlers, the pitch at the SuperSport Park has plenty of speed and bounce. However, that should also help the ball come on to the bat nicely - provided lateral movement is navigated smartly.
Can South Africa get a much-needed win to lift their spirits and their ranking? Or will Sri Lanka continue their winning streak against the Proteas? Find out if our South Africa vs Sri Lanka 1st Test predictions come true on Saturday!
|SA Top Batsman:|
|F du Plessis|
|SL Top Batsman:|
|SA Top Bowler (Wickets):|
|SL Top Bowler (Wickets):|
|Players to score a fifty:|
|D Karunaratne/O Fernando/N Dickwella (SL), Q de Kock/T Bavuma/du Plessis (SA)|
|Players to score a century:|
|D Karunaratne/O Fernando(SL), T Bavuma/du Plessis (SA)|