South Africa tour of Sri Lanka 2018
There’s more common ground between South Africa and Sri Lanka than just controversial ball-tampering sagas.
Faf du Plesis has done it in the past. He used a gum, only to find swollen faces and reprimands thereafter.
Now, a fortnight ago- Dinesh Chandimal did it inside his pockets, only to protest the call by the umpires. Incoherence defined a maligned Sri Lanka in their tour to West Indies.
But will it define them this time around as they ready to host South Africa?
Or will the talent of the youth take center-stage as among cricket’s giants pays them a visit, albeit without a certain AB De Villiers?
Both sides have a ton of youngsters waiting to make heads turn. This will be the first ever tour to Sri Lanka for Aiden Markram and Temba Bavuma. For Sri Lanka, there’s not an awful lot of cricket that the likes of Lahiru Kumara or Roshen Dickwella have played against South Africa.
There are more questions than any plausible answers at this point in time as a comprehensive bi-lateral series, involving 2 Tests, 5 ODIs and 1 T20 is about to begin.
From Sri Lanka’s perspective, things look a mixed bag as of now.
Chandimal is not expected to participate. That there aren’t only Tests but a number of ODIs warrant the presence of Sri Lanka’s most capable batsman. But who’s to know if he will at all participate.
There’s the old assurance of the return of Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka’s listless trump card, who hasn’t had a great run in 2018 so far. Having cut short his West Indies tour, Mathews can feel the slight comfort of being asked to bat and ball in home conditions.
Sri Lanka will look upto its ageless monk- Rangana Herath- to step up the game. That November may be his last in the sport would mean that Herath will look to make better of his personal run against the mighty South Africans.
There’s little doubt about Herath’s overall Test run
He’s had a glorious career, probably second-best after Murali by earnest admission.
However, that he hasn’t been in the greatest of forms in recent Tests should give South Africa an extra leeway to play a spin great.
Of the 418 Test scalps, Herath has taken, only 31 have come against South Africa. But that’s not really the worrying part. His strike rate of 79 against South Africa is his second-worst ever, having faced the ire against India.
There are just 2 five-for’s that Herath’s scaled against the Proteas but has had 103 overs to have a go at the side.
Maybe what may work best for Sri Lanka on their its spin-friendly wickets to opt for the same strategy that Faf’s side is gunning for.
Should both sides rely more on pacers?
South Africa may not have exactly worded it out but their clear focus rests on three major factors as they hit Sri Lankan shores for the first time in 4 years.
The last that the two sides played a Test came in 2014. Believe it or not, South Africa were denied a victory. There are crucial pacers on either side. With an in-form Lakmal and Kumara, Sri Lanka isn’t a team devoid of quality pace bowling. But against them stands a ruthless pace battery.
Even as there’s a certain Kagiso Rabada in the ranks- returning from a back scuffle with the ‘Big Vern’ in the hunt, the biggest highlight rests with Dale Steyn.
“Steyn-gun” is expected to make his big comeback after nearly half a year’s absence against Sri Lanka.
Steyn is just 3 wickets behind Shaun Pollock’s tally of 421 Test dismissals.
Should he fire some missiles into the Lankan camp- and there’s a probability, he most definitely will- the Protean will become South Africa’s highest-ever wicket-taker.
But questions will still ponder the South African camp as in their opposite number regarding the full-scale of Dale Steyn’s fitness and recovery.
No one needs to be tutored what Dale Steyn in explosive form can do.
But everyone knows that he’s clearly past his best with injuries, exacerbated by calf, shoulder and ligament worries having truncated what could’ve been an even healthier run in the longest form of the game.
That he’s returning to South African camp is a huge lift in itself. It will give both Vernon Philander- 204 Test wickets and, Rabada- who needs just 7 wickets to become the youngest to reach 150 scalps.
Now, this is a really fitting reminder of just how good Rabada is.
Not only is he aggressive and fast, he’s rapidly run up to gather nearly 150 wickets. Should Steyn and Rabada make it count- it would be curtains for a batting line-up comprising, Dickwella, Mendis, Mathews, and others.
But will it be that easy for South Africa?
Sri Lanka will remember, this is a Proteas contingent minus the most dismissive weaponry, inarguably, the sharpest blade of them all- Abraham Benjamin De Villiers.
Good riddance from the hosts’ point of view.
But the bad news is, both Faf and Amla have a fine record against them
Faf Du Plessis will be interested to gather some cool pickings in the First Test especially so as to award himself a nice birthday present.
The captain has struck 362 runs from 5 Tests, including 2 fifties, whereas veteran batsman Amla has managed 636, nearly double of Faf’s aggregate from twice as many Tests as Faf, including 2 hundreds as many fifties.
With the experienced batsmen available, what difference can Aiden Markram bring, who’ll be raring to go, having already collected 2 hundreds the last he played in a Test series.
Sitting pretty at 1000 runs from 10 Tests, the Sri Lankan tour will be the future South African captain’s Litmus Test. It may not be that easy go on a run-scoring spree on turning, sub-continental tracks.
Moreover, with the monsoons slated to play their role, it’s hard to provide a prediction as to what might exactly happen.
But the starting advantage given Sri Lanka may miss Chandimal altogether, seems to rest with South Africa.
The numbers, in addition, don’t lie
Between them, the two sides have played 25 Test matches, of which, Sri Lanka has been able to win just 5. South Africa, with 14 Test wins remains way ahead of their rusty opponents.
But these days one’s seeing Tests finishing inside 5 days. What will happen this time? Will it rain more than the runs or wickets?