South Africa will be looking towards their first ever Test series victory in Sri Lanka since 1993 © Getty Images
By R Vishal
Jul 23, 2014
Before the start of the series, Sri Lanka swept everything in their sights in 2014. With South Africa having an abysmal record in the island nation, another flogging was expected. Moreover, the Proteas were experiencing a change in guard after nearly a decade. Hashim Amla had his toughest assignment as captain. Having outplayed the Lankans for a major part of four days, Amla made an audacious declaration. Sri Lanka had to chase down 370 in 122 overs.
Sri Lanka’s were on course after a solid start from Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara. Dale Steyn then blew the opponents away and South Africa had a priceless win. A resurgent home side are gunning for a backlash and to aid that cause, the match will be played in the batting heaven that is the Colombo (SSC). Sri Lankans have gorged on this wicket whenever they have played here and it should be no different during this Test. As for South Africa, they would not forget the world-record 624-run partnership between Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in 2006 at the ground. With his remarkable Test career drawing to a close, Jayawardene would love to have another crack at huge score. He has scored more than half his centuries at the SSC.
This South African team, however knows no fear. With their immaculate all-round team, they have now won all over the world. They arrived at the emerald isles with a mission and have had Sri Lanka on the mat. Pacer Shaminda Eranga split the webbing of his fingers in Galle and will miss his services in the second Test. The verdict is still not out on who will take his place. The visitors are expected to go with an unchanged XI. South African wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock was just a year old when Brett Schultz’s fury earned South Africa their last win here. History beckons, but the rainbow nation is up against a wounded tiger who hate losing at home.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Lahiru Thirimanne, Upul Tharanga, Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Kithuruwan Vithanage, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Ajantha Mendis, Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga, Dhammika Prasad, Chanaka Welegedara.
South Africa: Alviro Petersen, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla (c), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Stiaan van Zyl, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Kyle Abbott, Quinton de Kock, Dane Piedt.
Start Time: 10:00 IST | 04:30 GMT | 10:00 Local
(R Vishal is a journalist and an alumni of the Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)