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Match Preview – South Africa vs Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka in SA 2020, 1st Test

Match Preview - South Africa vs Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka

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At face value, do Sri Lanka really have a chance? Let’s look at the facts against them:

  • They’ve not played international cricket since March.
  • Most squad members have spent three weeks playing T20 cricket, and are now expected to make the substantial switch into Test mode.
  • They’ve had no warm-up match due to Covid-19 complications.
  • They are missing Angelo Mathews – the most experienced member of their batting order.
  • Sri Lanka batsmen have always struggled at Centurion.

And yet, when they won 2-0 in South Africa last year, Sri Lanka had faced even steeper odds, their fast bowling stocks having been decimated by injury, while a captain had just been sacked, and a coach was fearing for his job (which he would lose, several months later). This time, not only do they feel they have a stronger seam attack, but also have a batting group with more experience, and a coach who knows South African conditions intimately, in Mickey Arthur.

South Africa, however, are much more fearsome in the Highveld – where both Tests will be played – than they are on the coasts, particularly against South Asian opponents. They also have players in form. Anrich Nortje was rapid in the T20s against England, as well as in the IPL. This was in T20s, but the man is clearly in good rhythm, and the prospects of him hitting high speeds at Centurion will worry some Sri Lanka batsmen. The likes of Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen and Keshav Maharaj are coming off excellent performances in the four-day competition (Markram has 75, 113, 149, 121 in his four most-recent innings), which is leads to another point – they have been playing long-form cricket, where Sri Lanka have not had competitive multi-day matches to play for at least five months.

South Africa clearly start as favourites, but as Sri Lanka’s captain Dimuth Karunaratne has asserted, a lot depends on how well each team bats after their long Test hiatus. There have been some seriously low team totals in each of the last four matches between these teams. If that is the case again, Sri Lanka will feel they have a chance.

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