SA Invitational XI v Sri Lankans, Benoni December 8, 2011

Invitation side will test Sri Lanka - Vincent Barnes


South Africa's Invitation XI will play a vital role in sizing up Sri Lanka ahead of the three-Test series. The teams have not played each other in the longest version of the game since 2006 and Sri Lanka have been strangers to South African shores since 2002, resulting in a degree of unfamiliarity between the two sides.

Sri Lanka's obvious strength lies in their batting line-up, headlined by two former captains, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. However, they the likes of Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne, who are awaiting their first Test caps, and Kaushal Silva and Lahiru Thirimanne, will have to rise to the challenge of supporting them consistently.

With batting being talked up as the key to Sri Lankan success by their captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, it will be crucial for them to learn how to play on South African pitches, against South African bowlers, quickly. "The key for Sri Lanka will be adjusting to the conditions and the pace and bounce of the pitches," Vincent Barnes, Invitation XI coach, told ESPNcricinfo.

Barnes, who was South Africa's bowling coach for eight years, will also be keenly watching Sri Lanka's attack, which is almost unknown to South Africa. The only familiar face is Dilhara Fernando, who toured South Africa nine years ago. The other seamers, Chanaka Welegedara, Nuwan Pradeep, Thisara Perera and Angelo Matthews have only played 36 Tests between them, none against South Africa.

With South Africa expected to prepare seamer-friendly pitches, Sri Lanka's bowlers may be looking forward to the prospect of helpful conditions but Barnes warned that they will also have to make adjustments. "When bowlers play on fairly unresponsive pitches most of the time and they get to South Africa, they tend to bowl too short," he said. "They will have to work on their lengths."

Sri Lanka's bowlers' first taste of a South African surface will be on Friday in Benoni, traditionally one of the more passive pitches in the country. Barnes expects it to play in the usual way, although it has shown signs of defying that recently. "The pitch looked good," Barnes said. "There was a match earlier in the season when the Titans were bowled out cheaply and the pitch had a lot of grass on it, but there is a lot less now."

That means a repeat of the South Africa A game against Australia in Potchefstroom last month which ended in less than three days is unlikely. Barnes was in charge of the South Africa A side during that game. Although Australia won comfortably, Barnes was satisfied that his team had succeeded in making the visitors feel uncomfortable and gave them minimum time in the middle.

He would like the invitation side to replicate some of those tactics. "That's our job, we are not going to make it easy for them, we're not here to give Sri Lanka glory," he said. The team consists of only five members of the XI that played against Australia because of a fixture clash. The final of South Africa's domestic one-day cup, which will be played between the Cobras and the Warriors on Friday, meant that the selectors were forced to pick from a smaller group of players. They also chose not to include any of the members of the Test squad, a different tactic to the one they employed against Australia.

Then, Vernon Philander forced his way into the starting XI with fiery spells, Marchant de Lange announced his presence with a five-wicket haul and Alviro Petersen railed against being dropped with a fighting century. "The two stand-outs from that match were Alviro and Marchant and look where they are now," Barnes said. Petersen was recalled and de Lange has been handed his maiden call-up.

This time, a different team has been put together. The only players on the fringes of the national team are left-arm spinner Paul Harris, wicket-keeper Thami Tsolekile, two players who Barnes said, "will want to use this so that the selectors will take notice."

For the rest, Barnes sees it as a way for the country's next tier of players to make an impact. "It is a wonderful opportunity for them to play world-class opposition," he said. "Gary [Kirsten] told the guys a story about how he was given the chance to play in an invitation side against India because of injury to someone and he did not look back since then."

Barnes is also a national selector and by being part of games like these can assess players when they are moved a step above franchise level. "I have watched a lot of domestic cricket this season and I have been able to identify who the really nuggety, gritty players are," he said. One of those is Knights' batsman Dean Elgar who has been a regular in A teams and invitation XIs for the past three seasons, "He is pushing hard for a place in the national team, there is a queue and he probably just has to wait for his turn, but he is pushing hard."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 10, 2011, 2:26 GMT

    if sl batsmen do well in the 1st inning..then we have a chance of winning a test match

  • Dummy4 on December 9, 2011, 14:52 GMT

    @Trevor Greening.Thanx for ur comment.U ar a good crickert fan............ @ Darkmanx12155. Ur ar a joker.SA is a very good team.As a Sri Lankan i like to see my country become winner of the series.But SA haven't luck.Your results are jokes.I know this is a very tough tour,but i'm sure Sri Lanka can do some thing in this tour.I should be the turning point.I wish both SL and SA teams.

  • sirsak on December 9, 2011, 14:21 GMT

    lol vincent barnes u will not take us lightly .we will not take the chokers lightly

  • Dinindu on December 9, 2011, 14:01 GMT

    My 11 for the 1 st test for sri lanka is 1.dilshan 2.chandimal 3.sanga 4.mahela 5.thilan 6.angelo 7.kaushal silva 8.thisara p.erera 9.ajantha mendis 10. welegedara 11. prdeep when shaminda eranga fit and sachithra senanayake is available they should be included instead of worst two performers (bowlers) in this series. Now senanayake has been adjudged legal so its a must to call him for the one days.i have a high hope that he will be at least 3/4 a murali for sri lanka

  • Dummy4 on December 9, 2011, 13:25 GMT

    coach is intelligent guys he said he never welcome our lions as an easily but who is kepler wessels ... (poor guy) doesn't know cricket ..... did ur team win any ICC wc? or any important cup recently ? did SA come to final recent past? for 10 years answer is no no no ..... but he told about SA A team good for lions..... I like to say the national team of SA is like A team to lions. remember 2003 WC SA cried (even didn't select to 2nd round in SA) So kepler talk what you know show what you have and don't be a boaster! all cricket lovers in SL

  • Arosha on December 9, 2011, 12:53 GMT

    @"Posted by sarath1948 on (December 09 2011, 01:49 AM GMT)": I agree with the fact that SL selectors being not competent & mindless for the most part. I can also agree with the fact that the careers of Roy Dias, Atapattu were somewhat cut short. Though Roy Dias may never be regarded as a worldclass match-winning batsman by any stretch of imagination, at least had been the best & the most technically competent batsman SL had that time. With a proper batting slot, Mahanama would have done better as well. Yet I cannot agree with your implication that these were better than some one like Jayasuriya whose contribution & impact were so immense. A player like Madugalle, with all due respect to him, cannot even hold a candle in this comparison. Both Ranatunge & Gurusinghe were much better players to be taken so lightly against the likes of Roy Dias. Mahanama, T'rathne may have been acceptable players. But what's so special about Madugalles, Weththimunis ? Both were good, but nothing more.

  • Aaron Chaim on December 9, 2011, 11:47 GMT

    No play on 1st day, soooooo we'll wait and see

  • Dimuthu on December 9, 2011, 11:22 GMT

    I hope Mahela can score big and shut his critics up who thinks he's a flat track bully. He scored a magnificent 95 here in 2002 on his first tour, hoping he reaches 3 figures this time. If he, Sanga, and Dilshan can score 100s here, the road to redemption can start.

  • Dummy4 on December 9, 2011, 6:47 GMT

    @Jassim Ahmed. Thank you.

  • Dummy4 on December 9, 2011, 6:36 GMT

    I am a South African living in Colorado USA. May the best team win; but of course, I hope that the Proteas prevail! I have always liked Sanga and Mahela. Sanga is ultra smart and has a great sense of humour. I bet that his sledging behind the stumps is hilarious (if anyone has links to his sledging, please let me/us know). On another note: Thank heavens Lasith M. is not playing otherwise I would personally buy steel-toed boots for all the SA batsmen! SL is on my list of places to visit, and if Sanga has his restaurant up and running, I'll be the first person at the door. O.K., enough sucking up to SL. Go Proteas.......!

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