Galle opening port of call for Pollock's side in Sri Lanka tour
Johannesburg - A dash to Galle, one of the most scenically pleasing venues at international level, awaits South Africa as they enter the post-Hansie Cronje era when South Africa's tour of Sri Lanka starts on July 6.
Shaun Pollock's side open their tour at Galle International Stadium with a limited-overs game in the Aiwa Cup against Sri Lanka and almost a week after arriving on the island with a warm-up game at the Colombo Cricket Club two days before.
Galle has one of the most impressive backdrops on the world stage with a 350-year-old fort overlooking the venue while the small ancient city was a staging point during the Roman Empire and the spice trade.
Fortunately Graham Ford, the coach, knows the area all too well from the South Africa A team tour of the island in 1998 although plans by the team's manager, Goolam Rajah, to have a look at the facilities before the tour depends on the duration he will be out of action after a shoulder operation this month.
About a four hour run by road from Colombo, Galle's venue is the only facility owned by the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka. The BCCSL released a list of the venues where South Africa are playing and the itinerary is similar to that of the Australians last year.
Pakistan and South Africa meet in a day/night game at the R Premadasa Stadium in central Colombo on July 8 followed by the second game against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club, the BCCSL headquarters in Maitland Place in Colombo's famed Cinnamon Gardens district.
South Africa's last two games of the qualifying round are at the SSC on July 11 and 12 while the final is scheduled for the R Premadasa Stadium two days later.
South Africa's preparation for the first Test is a two-day game at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in the eastern suburbs followed by a second visit to Galle for the opening match of the series on the south east coast.
Ford felt there was an advantage in playing a number of games in Colombo and his worst fears, of an eight to nine hour bus journey between Kandy and Galle between Tests has happily not materialised. In 1998 the A Side was expected to travel between Kurunegala and Matara which was a nine hour journey. No doubt the team's bus will be more comfortable and much faster than the bone-shaking iron horse used in 1998.
The Itinerary is:
July 4 Limited-overs warm-up, Colombo Cricket Club
6 Sri Lanka v SA, Galle
8 Pakistan v SA, R Premadasa Stadium (D/N), Colombo
11 SA v Sri Lanka, Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo
12 SA v Pakistan, Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo
14 Aiwa Cup final R Premadasa Stadium (D/N), Colombo
15 Reserve Day R Premadasa Stadium, (D/N), Colombo
16-17 Warm-Up match P.Saravanamuttu Stadium, Colombo
20-24 1st Test Galle International Stadium, Galle
26-27 Warm-Up Match Colombo Cricket Club Ground, Colombo
30 Jul 3 Aug 2nd Test Asgiriya Stadium, Kandy
6-10 3rd Test Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo