South Africa will be looking to seal a first series win over Sri Lanka since January 2017 when the teams meet in the second and final Test in Johannesburg.
Quinton de Kock started his Test captaincy stint with a comprehensive victory in Centurion last time out, despite the visitors making 396 in their first innings.
Former skipper Faf du Plessis weighed in with a career-best score of 199 as the hosts replied with a massive total of 621, allowing the bowlers to wrap up the win with well over a day to spare.
Sri Lanka were not helped by a number of injuries during proceedings at SuperSport Park – Dhananjaya de Silva retired hurt on 79 on day one and did not bat again, while Kasun Rajitha went down just 2.1 overs in the game.
The duo, along with Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Kumara and Oshada Fernando, have been ruled out for the second match, while Suranga Lakmal remains doubtful having already missed the opener.
Sri Lanka’s injuries are not just a concern for this series either, as the first of two Tests against England on home soil begins on January 14.
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) December 31, 2020
Despite the obvious problems for their opponents, South Africa opening batsman Dean Elgar insists they will not be so slow to get going this time.
“We’ve obviously got to try and throw the first punch, which we didn’t do in the first Test,” Elgar said, according to ESPNCricinfo.
“It’s almost like we waited for them to make a play and put ourselves under a lot of pressure with them scoring almost 400 runs.
“We know if we strike first with the ball we will put them under a lot of pressure especially on a wicket at the Wanderers that generally assists seam bowling.”
South Africa went down to England by 191 runs in their most recent fixture in the format at the venue, back in January 2020, but have not lost back-to-back Tests at the Wanderers since 2006.
Kagiso Rabada is part of the squad after missing the previous game with a groin strain, though both Raynard van Tonder and Glenton Stuurman were released on the eve of the match due to injuries.
RABADA EYES LANDMARK
Head coach Mark Boucher has stated South Africa will take no risks with the fit-again Rabada. However, while not necessarily missed in the opener as others filled in admirably, his presence would undoubtedly strengthen the home team’s attack.
Rabada is on the brink of an impressive milestone too, as the 25-year-old is just three wickets away from becoming the eighth player to take 200 for South Africa in Tests.
Achieve the feat in Johannesburg and he will become the third-fastest to the number in Proteas history, only behind Dale Steyn (39 Tests) and Allan Donald (42) in terms of matches played.
Sri Lanka are missing several key players for the final game of the trip, though Dimuth Karunaratne hopes those in the final XI will make the most of the chance to impress.
The captain himself will hope to make greater contributions with the bat – he scored 22 and six in his two knocks at Centurion – but it is the bowling department where the team will be lacking in experience, particularly if Asitha Fernando is selected to make his debut.
“You can’t play in your comfort zone all the time, and it’s a good opportunity for me and the players who will play to show what they’ve got,” Karunaratne said. “It’s going to be a challenge for me to work out how to utilise this inexperienced side.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– South Africa have managed to win 12 of their previous 16 Test matches played on home soil – losing only three of those encounters (D1).
– Sri Lanka have won only one of their last six Tests to begin a calendar year (D1, L4). Their solitary victory was in January 2020, beating Zimbabwe by 10 wickets.
– Quinton de Kock (2,952) is closing in on 3,000 runs in Tests for South Africa. He would become the 16th man to reach that milestone for the Proteas.
– Out of Wanindu Hasaranga’s 77 runs scored in the first Test, 86 per cent came in boundaries, though just three of his 16 in total were through the leg side.
– Sri Lanka have lost 12 men’s Tests in South Africa, their second-worst total in any country away from home (13 in Australia).