As South Africa’s tour of Sri Lanka gets underway with the Galle test on July 12, Thursday, cricket enthusiasts are expecting a riveting contest that will set the tone for the series. Both teams will look to outperform each other and take an all-important 1-0 lead in this two test match series, the second of which will be played at Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo from July 20 onwards. Subsequent to the test series, the two teams will face each other in 5 ODIs and a T20I. Although the series is in no way a “clash of titans,” we can expect competitive cricket, particularly when the mighty Proteas take on the Islanders riding high on the home advantage.
South Africa enters the contest as favourites for reasons not far to seek. Even without the legendary AB De Villiers, the Proteas have a solid batting line-up with the likes of Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Quinton De Kock, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen and Aiden Markram. The bowling department is also well served by Vernon Philander, Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn who can turn the tide with their skills and attitude on any given day and at any surface.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka has its share of form and fitness issues that are glaring enough to hold them back. The Islanders will be counting on the experience of Mahela Udawatte, Kushal Perera, Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Mendis to amass big runs and put Proteas under some pressure. On the bowling front, the young off-spinner, Akila Dananjaya, can be the trump card for the Sri Lankans, as the opponents may struggle to read his googly and carrom balls.
On paper, South Africa outweighs the hosts in experience, talent, tenacity and fitness. In fact, the Proteas are only behind India to be the second-ranked team on ICC test ratings while Sri Lanka languishes at number six. That said, Sri Lanka cannot be ruled out outright, as it can be a formidable unit in tailor-made, home conditions. To conclude, South Africa is a safe bet but not an absolute one.