Sri Lanka begin their tour of South Africa on Wednesday when the two sides face off in the first Test in Durban. There are only two matches in the series so both teams will be looking to win this first game and secure an early share of the spoils.
Both sides have been relatively active over the course of the winter although Sri Lanka have been doing a fair bit of travelling so they might be a little more weary heading into the series but that will be nothing that a couple of good performances can’t solve.
The Proteas go into this series off the back of dominating Pakistan in a Test match series over Christmas and the New Year. Although they won 3-0 they were anything but flawless but when they needed to be ruthless they were, and they will be out to do similar over the course of this match and the one that follows it.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the bowling attack of the South Africans in that previous series but where they might be disappointed, and certainly have room to be, is with the bat. Admittedly they were up against a very useful attack but they did not convince with the bat in hand and that is something for them to sharpen up on over the course of these matches.
It has been a tough winter for Sri Lanka so far. They began it by being well beaten by England on home soil and then had fruitless trips to New Zealand and Australia and now they face a fourth series in pretty quick succession which is almost unheard of these days. At times they have been competitive in the first three series but all too often they have been ripped apart.
The Sri Lankans always have the issue of not having much penetration with the ball in overseas conditions and that continues to hamper them even now. What they can do though is get stuck in with the bat and we’ve seen some huge performances with them in that discipline. What we haven’t seen is enough of it over a prolonged period of time.
There is talk that Wiaan Mulder could come into the side and while that could provide them with a better balance, I don’t see South Africa dropping any of their front line seamers, which they would need to do to accommodate him.
Sri Lanka have Suranga Lakmal back from injury and that will be a big boost to the tourists. Dinesh Chandimal is not here though so Dimuth Karunaratne will skipper the side Milinda Siriwardene could also work his way into the set up.
There have been 43 previous Test matches at this famous venue with South Africa not having the best of records. They have just 14 wins to 15 defeats and a further 14 draws. Sri Lanka are actually unbeaten on this ground with a win and a draw from their two matches they have played here.
South Africa are on a run of three matches without a win on this ground. This is a good cricket wicket. The bowlers tend to have plenty of it initially but when the new ball is seen off and the batsmen get in there are runs to be had on this ground. Expect a wicket with a fair bit of carry in it given those are the conditions Sri Lanka struggle against.
If I am honest this isn’t really a series that gets me going in any way and given the potential one-sided nature of it I’m not going to get massively involved from a betting point of view. In saying all that I probably will try and watch a fair bit of it so I am going to go with one bet which comes in the player performances.
The player I like is Vernon Philander, who should really get the best out of this Durban track. His seam presentation should see him get plenty of assistance from the pitch and any help through the air will help him too. Away from his bowling he is a perfectly accomplished batsman and with a combination of the two scoring methods I see no reason why he won’t cover 120.5pts.
Back V.Philander’s Performance – Over 120.5pts for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Bet365