Sri Lanka LLLDL

In the spotlight

Keshav Maharaj is one of the most promising Test spinners in the world, but is in the frustrating position of having to sit outside the playing XI in many home Tests. Under Ottis Gibson, South Africa have strengthened their commitment to fast bowling, and their pace options are now as strong, perhaps, as they have ever been, with the likes of Duanne Olivier emerging over the past few months. Maharaj, though, has been collateral, and now must pick himself up and deal with the pressure of expectation. This being Kingsmead, and this being his home venue, South Africa will want wickets out of their lead spinner.

It is difficult to think of a Sri Lanka captain who has had a more difficult first-up assignment than Dimuth Karunaratne. He has spoken about the role being a privilege, and of the excitement with which he is approaching his job, but if you look at the mess he has been saddled with, there is an element of cruelty in this appointment. What’s he to do, for example, with an attack with less than 20 Tests between them, and a batting order that produced only two fifties in their last series? Karunaratne had an outstanding series with the bat against South Africa, in Sri Lanka last year, outscoring the entire opposition in one of the Tests. If they are to stand a chance again, he will probably have to have a similarly sublime batting series.

Team news

Faf du Plessis said he would think of bringing in Wiaan Mulder as a seam-bowling allround option. If they do go in with one fewer batsman, Theunis de Bruyn, who did not cross fifty against Pakistan, seems likeliest to miss out. If Mulder plays, there’s also a question as to which fast bowler is dropped. With Duanne Olivier in excellent form, and Kagiso Rabada’s selection a no-brainer, one of Vernon Philander or Dale Steyn may have to make way.

South Africa (possible): 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Faf du Plessis (capt.), 5 Temba Bavuma, 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Wiaan Mulder/Dale Steyn, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Vernon Philander, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Duanne Olivier

Suranga Lakmal has recovered sufficiently from a back injury to return to the XI, according to the team management. Sri Lanka do have a decision to make as to which fresh batsman replaces Dinesh Chandimal in order, however. It could be Angelo Perera, who recently became only the second batsman to hit two double centuries in a single first class match. Or it could be left-arm spinning allrounder Milinda Siriwardana, who has a little experience at the top level, as well as some decent domestic form himself.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), 2 Lahiru Thirimanne, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Kusal Perera, 5 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Angelo Perera/Milinda Siriwardene, 8 Lakshan Sandakan, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Kasun Rajitha, 11 Vishwa Fernando

Pitch and conditions

Du Plessis is hoping this Kingsmead pitch has more pace and bounce than those seen in recent years at the venue, but admitted that spin probably had a substantial role to play as the Test wore on. The forecast for Durban is not great. Rain is forecast to interrupt the first two days of the Test.

Stats and trivia

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