2nd Test: Sri Lanka chase historic series win in South Africa
Sri Lanka have never won a Test series in South Africa. (AFP Image)

Durban was lucky for the second time for Sri Lanka after Kusal Perera played the innings of his life to hand his team a special win. And just like that, Sri Lanka head into the second and final Test on the cusp of a historic series win. Annihilated against England and home and beaten at the hands of New Zealand on their home soil, you really had to be an optimist to give Sri Lanka a chance.

Towards the end, it could have been anybody’s game in Durban, and even though Perera was present in the right place at the right time, South Africa were just one step away from tasting the cake. Faf du Plessis, the dejected captain covered the heartbreak by calling the game the perfect advert for Test cricket, and while that holds true by every stretch of the imagination, he and his team will head to Port Elizabeth with a point to prove.

Batting remains a concern for both sides, particularly the too order. Take our Perera’s match tally of 204 runs and Dhananjaya de Silva’s 48 in the second innings was the next highest score for the visitors. The experience of Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne at the top is vital for Sri Lanka and they would want some pressure off Perera’s shoulders.

South Africa faces a similar issue. The combined failure of their Top 3 – Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla have failed to fire, and that leaves the likes of du Plessis and Quinton de Kock to shepherd the lower-middle order. His twin half-centuries offered South Africa respectable totals, but they’d require some more stability from the top order if they are to avoid the possibility of another shock.

A streak of seven undefeated home series is on the line, and the best South Africa can do is share the series. Two years, ago, they had beaten Sri Lanka by 206 runs at this venue, and they would gain confidence from the fact that South Africa have won five and drawn their recent six games at Port Elizabeth.

Date: February 21 to 25, 2019

Time: 1400 IST

Venue: St. George’s Park, Port Elizabeth

Weather: Scattered showers on Day 1 followed by partly cloudy skies for the remainder of the days.

Teams

South Africa

Allrounder Wiaan Mulder is in line for Test debut after Vernon Philander was ruled out of the second Test due to a hamstring injury. Mulder, capped in eight ODIs, returned to the ODI setup earlier this month and claimed 1/20 from three overs as South Africa beat Pakistan 3-2. He had been sidelined with an ankle injury in September, and having proven his fitness and form with ten wickets in three first-class matches, as well as a century, the 20-year-old was ushered back in. From 20 first-class matches, Mulder has 1034 runs at 43.08, with three centuries, and 60 wickets at 23.61 apiece.

Probable XI: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Wiaan Mulder/Theunis de Bruyn, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Duanne Olivier.

Sri Lanka

Expect the visitors to stick to the same Playing XI from Durban.

Probable XI: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Lahiru Thirimanne, Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Embuldeniya, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando

Stats and Trivia

– If South Africa win in Port Elizabeth, they will drop two points further behind India. And if they lose or draw they will fall behind New Zealand, currently in third place.

– Last season, after losing the first Test in Durban, South Africa turned the series against Australia around with a convincing six-wicket win in Port Elizabeth.

Kagiso Rabada, who had a poor first Test against Sri Lanka, will be returning to the ground where he took 11 wickets against Australia.

Quotes

“We will look at the conditions and then we will try to make the best decision for the team. Obviously, Mulder would be a like-for-like replacement for Vernon, so that is something that we will consider as well” – South Africa coach Ottis Gibson hints at Mulder’s inclusion.