Their batsmen were so deeply troubled by the Sri Lankan spinners in Galle that the final Test in Colombo, beginning on Friday, is as much about the South African batsmen restoring their reputations as it is about the visitors saving the series.
In Galle, South Africa collapsed twice in as many days. They were bundled out for 126 in the first innings – itself largely thanks to Faf du Plessis’s 49 – and then succumbed to their lowest total since readmission when Dilruwan Perera’s 6/32 restricted them to just 73.
Afterwards, du Plessis, the South Africa captain, said, “we’ve only ourselves to blame,”. The batting coach, Dale Benkenstein, said it was all down to South Africa’s mental make-up. “Technically, you have to face the spinning ball and there's a few things that you have to adjust to. But 90% of it is being tough mentally, being used to the ball missing the bat or spinning past the bat.”
With the first Test getting over in three days, South Africa had five full days to prepare for round two. They would, surely, have done all they can in the nets. But as important will be their team combination in Colombo.
In Galle, they opted for an extra bowler, with all of Tabraiz Shamsi, Keshav Maharaj, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada taking the field. South Africa’s struggles with the bat, however, might prompt a seventh batsman to be included, which could lead to the exclusion of Philander, who bowled just 11 overs in two innings in Galle.
Sri Lanka, of course, have none of these concerns. Rangana Herath and Perera will once again hope to repeat their feats from the first Test. Lakshan Sandakan, the young left-arm wrist-spinner, will be equally optimistic, while Dimuth Karunaratne, who scored 218 runs over two innings in Galle, will look to cash in once again on his excellent form.
Squads: Sri Lanka: Suranga Lakmal, Akila Dananjaya, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Rangana Herath, Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Kumara, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Kusal Perera, Kasun Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan, Roshen Silva
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wk), Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Shaun von Berg
Dilruwan PereraDinesh ChandimalFaf du PlessisHashim Amlarangana herathsecond testSouth Africa vs Sri LankaSri Lanka vs South Africa
First Published: July 19, 2018, 6:15 PM IST