South Africa will face Sri Lanka in the 1st Test at Centurion on Saturday. Although playing at home, South Africa would not start favorites for the 2-match Test series due to their poor run in this format in recent times. For the record, South Africa have lost 8 of their last 9 Test matches. They are currently in a transitional phase and are brooding young cricketers for the future. They are also playing Test cricket after a gap of almost a year and would be rusty, to begin with.
They will be led by Quinton de Kock who has maintained he is not a long-term option for captaincy. However, they have the veteran Faf du Plessis, who is in the twilight of his career, to lead the batting attack. They also have Deal Elgar and Aiden Markram, besides de Kock to strengthen their batting unit. But they would miss the services of unfit K Rabada (groin issue) dearly. Lungi Ngidi will be leading the bowling attack in the absence of Rabada.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have named a strong Test squad, including the majority of players from the 2019 series that won 2-0 in South Africa. But Sri Lanka’s own form in Tests – winning just 6 out of the last 20 matches - is nothing to write about. But the islanders have done well against the Proteas in recent times, winning 4 out of 4 Tests.
The weather forecast for the five days starting Saturday is good, with sunny to partly cloudy, and the temperature hovering around 18 degrees Celsius to 32 degrees Celsius, with rain to keep away from the ground.
SuperSport Park, Centurion has been a high-scoring ground, with 13 scores of 400 or more. South Africa holds the top five totals on this ground, with the highest of 620/4 declared against India in 2010. The pitch will offer assistance to pacers, but the batsmen who apply themselves could pile up runs at this venue.
South Africa have been hit with an injury to key bowler K Rabada. And it would be interesting to see how the Proteas cope up with this loss. Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje have to step up and lead the bowling attack. Their batting is in a better place, with veteran Faf du Plessis leading the pack. Few players have had to be withdrawn after they tested positive for Covid-19, but they have been able to put up a squad to face a strong Sri Lankan team.
Sri Lanka would miss injured Angelo Mathews but would take inspiration from their 2-0 win over South Africa in 2019. Kusal Perera who struck that magical 153* in Durban in 2019 would look to repeat that heroics and heap more humiliation on South Africa.
With Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, and captain Dimuth Karunaratne in the line-up, Sri Lanka have one of the best Test batting line-ups in the world currently. But it’s their bowling that could come under pressure against the South African batsmen at home. But Sri Lanka too are playing Test cricket after almost a year. And hence, the initial rustiness would be unavoidable.
Possible Playing XI
South Africa - Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Kyle Verreynne, Quinton de Kock (wk), Keshav Maharaj, Dwaine Pretorius, Anrich Nortje, Glenton Stuurman, Faf du Plessis
Sri Lanka - Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Dasun Shanaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Lasith Embuldeniya
SA vs SL Fantasy Team
Faf du Plessis (SA), Dean Elgar (SA), Dimuth Karunaratne (SL), Kusal Perera (SL) Quinton de Kock (SA), Kusal Mendis (SL), Dhananjaya de Silva (SL), Dasun Shanaka (SL), Lungi Ngidi (SA), Anrich Nortje (SA), Suranga Lakmal (SL)
Captain picks: Kusal Perera (SL), Faf du Plessis (SA)
Vice-captain picks: Quinton de Kock (SA), Lungi Ngidi (SA)
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