After an awful and bitter 0-2 Test series defeat in Australia, the Sri Lankans have landed in Durban, South Africa with usual hopes of ‘winning’, this time sans regular skipper Dinesh Chandimal. The two-match Test series will begin on Wednesday at Kingsmead, Durban, under stand-in skipper Dimuth Karunaratne and without six regulars.
The ones who will miss the South African safari are skipper Chandimal, who was given a chance to regain his form playing in the ongoing SLC Premier League competition, batsmen Roshen Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama, spinner Dilruwan Perera — all dropped — and the three fast bowlers who joined the injury list, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera and Nuwan Pradeep.
With a few fresh entrants and a new skipper, Sri Lanka has already began training at Durban. Team Manager Jeryl Woutersz told the Sunday Times that so far the boys have shown good spirit and are training daily before the final team is announced on Tuesday.“The boys have been training with good character and we had a session early on Saturday. We will have another session on Sunday with the full squad,” Woutersz said.
The pruned down team side travelled to South Africa straight from Australia with Head Coach Chandika Hathurusingha leading them. When the team landed in Durban batting coach Jon Lewis, who had to leave Australia midway of the Test series was already there to join them.Four new inclusions Milinda Siriwardana, Kaushal Silva and rookies Oshada Fernando and Mohamed Shiraz joined the team on Thursday. The two other rookies Angelo Perera and spinner Lasith Embuldeniya are expected join the team today along with the selector Brendon Kuruppu.
“Today we will be able to do a full assessment on how the players are fairing, when the full squad is in. The good news is Suranga Lakmal has shown improvement and he is in good shape. He has been training with the team and bowled really well in the nets,” the Manager added.Sri Lanka is currently in Durban, and will hope that their woeful losing streak in Tests ends when they take on the Proteas from Wednesday at Kingsmead. The past four months would be a phase the Sri Lankans would like to forget where they had to suffer three series defeats. In November England came down to Sri Lanka to record a 3-0 whitewash, while Sri Lanka embarked their long tour in early December with the tour to New Zealand, where the tourists had to experience a 0-1 series loss after two games. Then came the thrashing from the virtually depleted Australians, who recorded a morale boosting 2-0 win.
Sri Lanka’s last visit to South Africa was exactly two years ago, between early December 2016 and late January 2017. The tourists had to suffer a 0-3 series loss, with South Africa winning the first Test by 206 runs at Port Elizabeth, followed by a 282-run win in the second Test at Cape Town and a sealer of an innings and 118-run win at Johannesburg.
Possessing the Proteas a threat in their own backyard would be one of the toughest challenges any team would wish to overcome. But the upcoming series could be easily termed an acid test for the new-look team where the Sri Lankans lack a senior motivator in the middle.“It’s too early to predict on anything, even about the final team. We have to think all new and keep our hopes alive only on a win at Kingsmead. The team could be new, but the players know their cricket. Let’s hope for the best,” stated Woutersz.The hosts, South Africa, would definitely not treat their opponents as amateurs when it comes to a Test battle. They have retained almost their most senior campaigners against Sri Lanka, who are struggling to prove and justify their existence in the top arena.
ScheduleFeb 13- Feb 17 1st Test atKingsmead, DurbanFeb 21- Feb 25 2nd Test atSt George’s Park, Port Elizabeth South Africa Test squad: Faf du Plessis (Capt), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn Sri Lanka Test squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (Capt), Niroshan Dickwella, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Janith Perera, Milinda Siriwardana, Dhananjaya de Silva, Oshada Fernando, Angelo Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando, Chamika Karunaratne, Mohamed Shiraz, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Embuldeniya.