SA vs SL – series preview

10 12 2011

First article, whoopie!

South Africa take on Sri Lanka in a 3 Test, 5 ODI series. Peculiarly, there are no T20s- quite surprising for a tour of this length. The three Tests will be spread between three of South Africa’s premier cricket grounds – Centurion, Kingsmead and Newlands. The first four ODIs have been given to the smaller towns/cities (Paarl, East London, Bloemfontein, Kimberley) and the tour ending 5th ODI takes place at Wanderers.

Sri Lanka (Sri Lankans to be politically correct – I’ve never quite understood that) have been warming up against an SA Invitational XI consisting of a number of future Protea prospects. A top four consisting of Reeza Hendricks, Dean Elgar, Stiaan van Zyl and Rilee Rossouw all notched up half centuries at Willowmoore Park in Benoni. Elgar top scored with 78 and is continuing to knock on the selectors door. Their reasoning behind not giving him a chance yet despite having an average over 46 is quite baffling. Rangana Herath was possibly the pick of the bowlers, claiming 2/44 off 20 overs. He will arguably be the most crucial cog in the injury-hampered Sri Lankan bowling lineup.

South Africa should cruise through both series on paper but, much to Proteas fans’ regret, cricket is played on lush green grass with a rectangular patch expertly mown for the purpose of allowing a round piece of cork to bounce easily. If cricket was played on paper, South Africa could well have a world cup or two under their belts. They would also be walking into this series on the back of a Test series win against Australia. Sri Lanka are the kings of dark-horsemanship and will be giving their all to upset the Proteas. The Proteas aren’t exactly immune to upsets either…

A rusty-looking Proteas batting lineup will be looking to use this series to find some form as they prepare for a tough Test season. The performances against Australia were not at the level that Proteas fans expect from a usually solid group of batsmen. If, and it is a big if, Graeme Smith finally clicks and hits a big score or two, I will be confident that South Africa have a batting lineup capable of matching it with the best. The Test skipper could not ask for a better time to search for runs as Sri Lanka have a number of key bowlers out through injury.

Sri Lanka’s batting lineup will be under pressure to perform this series as they know that they have to compensate for a weakened bowling lineup. Kumar Sangakarra is used to this pressure all too well, and with Mahela Jayawardene in a minor rut he will be expected to have a bumper series. The underrated Thilan Samaraweera will have to provide ample back up for the two Sri Lankan batting big guns.

South Africa’s bowlers are their strength, and if there is one bowler in the world capable of removing the Sangakarra effect, his name is Dale Steyn. Not much needs to be said about the Phalaborwa express, and this in itself speaks volumes in regards to his indisputable talent. Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are both star bowlers as well, and the three of them bowling in tandem would strike fear into most batsmen. The bowler that Sri Lanka may look to target is legspinner Imran Tahir. The Pakistani-cum-Durbanite showed glimpses of what he is capable of against the Aussies, but he also displayed lots of nerves. The Sri Lankans are stronger against spin than the Aussies, and as a result will back themselves to be able to dominate an unconfident Tahir. Imran will need to prove that he can step up to the next level.

Pre-series prediction: 3-2 to South Africa in the ODIs, 2-0 to SA in the Tests.

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