South Africa v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Durban December 25, 2011

Sri Lanka need a Christmas miracle

48

Match facts

December 26-30, Durban
Start time 10:00 (08:00GMT)

The Big Picture

For a team that has almost always been near the summit of the Test rankings, South Africa's recent home record is surprisingly ordinary - no series wins in more than three years. Their performances at Kingsmead in that period are similarly bleak - losing to each of the other major contenders for the title of world's best Test team. Graeme Smith and his side get the chance to erase both those blots this week as they take on a disjointed Sri Lanka.

After subsiding for below 200 in both innings of the first Test, the Sri Lanka batsmen won't be overly thrilled at the sight of a green-tinged track. In a bid to bolster the batting, Sri Lanka are mulling bringing in highly rated wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Chandimal in place of Kaushal Silva, who hasn't had the best of times in his three matches as replacement for regular gloveman Prasanna Jayawardene.

The number that is becoming synonymous with discussions about the decline of Sri Lankan cricket is the number of Tests they have gone without a victory since the retirement of their greatest player, Muttiah Muralitharan, last year. That now stands at 15, but almost as worrying is that in only two of those matches have Sri Lanka managed to bowl out the opposition twice.

Adding to the troubles on the field, are the many problems off it. A bankrupt board which is struggling to pay player salaries, and has indefinitely postponed its domestic matches. To top it off was the confusion in communication - their captain Tillakaratne Dilshan's announcement that fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara will join the squad was over-ruled a few days later by the sports ministry. All of which means Sri Lanka will need a Christmas miracle to pull off a victory in Durban.

Form guide

(Most recent first)

South Africa WLWDL
Sri Lanka LDLDD

Watch out for...

Thilan Samaraweera boasts a career average of 52.20 after playing as many as 69 Tests. But he doesn't get the respect that others with similar figures do because of his average record overseas, particularly against top teams like England, Australia and India. A big contribution on a tough Kingsmead track against a world-class South Africa attack will be a fitting riposte to his detractors.

Jacques Rudolph revived a seemingly dead South Africa career with a wagon-load of domestic runs this year, but he hasn't been able to carry that form to the Test level. With no half-century in three Tests, the selectors could be tempted to bring back Alviro Petersen if there are more failures. Petersen himself was axed after a relatively short fallow period, and his recall to the squad for the series sends a message to Rudolph.

Team news

South Africa will be waiting on Vernon Philander's fitness after he injured his knee during training, but it seems likely he will play. If he doesn't, Lonwabo Tsotsobe is the likely replacement, provided he has recovered fully from a side strain which has sidelined him since early November. If not, South Africa will have to call on a reserve - Marchant de Lange could make his debut. Smith has said that "ideally the team will stay the same."

South Africa: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Jacques Rudolph, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Ashwell Prince, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir

Dilshan has hinted that Chandimal will play in place of Kaushal Silva and it's expected that Thisara Perera will sit out for Dhammika Prasad.

Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 2 Tharanga Paranavitana, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 8 Rangana Herath, 9 Dhammika Prasad, 10 Dilhara Fernando, 11 Chanaka Welegedara

Pitch and conditions

Durban has usually been a fast bowler's delight, and it is expected to have plenty of swing this time round as well, so don't count on a high-scoring draw. The bowlers will relish the green pitch and overcast conditions and the only downer is the mid-week rain that is predicted.

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka are the only team against which Jacques Kallis hasn't scored a Test century
  • If Chandimal is picked, he will be Sri Lanka's eighth Test debutant this year, the most since 1999
  • In Tests between the two countries, Muttiah Muralitharan has 104 wickets - that's more than twice the next highest, Shaun Pollock with 48

For a full stats analysis, click here.

Quotes

"The wicket looks like it should go more than three days, unless one team puts up their hand and plays unbelievable cricket. It will be a good Test wicket with something for both bat and ball and something to play for over five days for a change."
AB de Villiers hopes for a Test match that lasts the distance

"I remember facing Mfuneko Ngam, who was the quickest bowler I had faced. It was a Test match that we fought hard to draw."
Kumar Sangakkara recalls the 2000 Durban Test, the only one Sri Lanka have not lost in South Africa

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • prksinghg on December 26, 2011, 9:21 GMT

    this looks like a 400+ wicket

  • on December 26, 2011, 6:16 GMT

    Good luck Sri Lanka. Get it back on the track

  • Amol_Gh on December 26, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    Rana: I don't know why u, a PAK-fan, are needlessly dragging IND, into an SA-SRL Match preview. Ask the South Africans who are the toughest opponents from the Sub-continent. They would say: IND. The last time IND were in SA, IND drew the SERIES (NOT just a Match). How many teams actually manage that? Meanwhile what did PAK did? In order to boost their overall falsely built status, they set a series against SA in Abu Dhabi and since PAK are NOT confident of even their bowling now, created the flattest of roads as pitches where, Steyn, Marshall, Donald, Walsh, Holding, Akram, Younis, Ambrose, Roberts, McGrath ALL TOGETHER could NEVER get 10 wickets in an single innings & here was Steyn laboring alone most times. That was the last time Steyn went without a wicket in an innings. That does not mean Steyn failed. That only means the pitches were sub-standard. Look who's talking about doctored pitches. If IND wins abroad they have altered pitches ??? LOL. PAK-SL-fans are a joke.

  • on December 26, 2011, 5:18 GMT

    The Srilanka team is still rebuilding and the financial status of the cricket board is not helping at all by holding back salaries and, there are political issues with player selection. The captain is irresponsible The batsman must dig deep and fight hard to survive this supreme seam attack and they dont even seem to be prepared to do that The inexperienced bowling attack is trying hard but the batsmen give them no chance with these horrible scores. These are the reasons for the teams recent loss To overcome these problems Dilshan must lead from the front as a captain and the top six have to show much more responsibility and apply themselves like PROFESSIONAL cricketers who show at least a purpose of surviving when the ball is swinging.

  • cricket-SA on December 26, 2011, 5:04 GMT

    @Mahesh Dushmantha , Dilshan is a closed chapter now. I dont think he can get any better now. The best thing for him now is to retire from all forms of the game if not all but at least tests, with respect.

  • cricket-SA on December 26, 2011, 5:01 GMT

    Even if Sri Lanka would have toured with their best Test playing squad still there wouldn't have been any competition between South Africa and Sri Lanka. This series totally supports South Africa in every aspect, even the natural factors are in South Africa's favor.

  • Test-is-the-best on December 26, 2011, 4:45 GMT

    I think Kaushal has already wasted his opportunities.he has not performed well in fielding and batting. Sri Lanka need Prasanna back soon. Paranavithana too has not proven his suitability as a solid opener. Still he could not convert his innings to a big hundreds.Dilhara is not getting wickets as usual. Its time to consider replacements for them too.

  • satanswish on December 26, 2011, 4:04 GMT

    Christmas miracle??? What a joke!! Don't expect miracles or rather upsets from minnows in Test Cricket.

  • on December 26, 2011, 3:15 GMT

    i thing very very good dishition for dinesh chandimal incluted this side.so today SL batting linap very hight. i thing SL team today over 400 runs get

  • WaldermaltCricketer on December 26, 2011, 3:02 GMT

    If there is a miracle also Sri Lankan team won't be able to save the game. Because their weaknesses are stronger than miracles. Nothing to argue. SL won't manage to score 200 runs. This is gonna be another huge victory for world class SA against ordinary SL team.

  • prksinghg on December 26, 2011, 9:21 GMT

    this looks like a 400+ wicket

  • on December 26, 2011, 6:16 GMT

    Good luck Sri Lanka. Get it back on the track

  • Amol_Gh on December 26, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    Rana: I don't know why u, a PAK-fan, are needlessly dragging IND, into an SA-SRL Match preview. Ask the South Africans who are the toughest opponents from the Sub-continent. They would say: IND. The last time IND were in SA, IND drew the SERIES (NOT just a Match). How many teams actually manage that? Meanwhile what did PAK did? In order to boost their overall falsely built status, they set a series against SA in Abu Dhabi and since PAK are NOT confident of even their bowling now, created the flattest of roads as pitches where, Steyn, Marshall, Donald, Walsh, Holding, Akram, Younis, Ambrose, Roberts, McGrath ALL TOGETHER could NEVER get 10 wickets in an single innings & here was Steyn laboring alone most times. That was the last time Steyn went without a wicket in an innings. That does not mean Steyn failed. That only means the pitches were sub-standard. Look who's talking about doctored pitches. If IND wins abroad they have altered pitches ??? LOL. PAK-SL-fans are a joke.

  • on December 26, 2011, 5:18 GMT

    The Srilanka team is still rebuilding and the financial status of the cricket board is not helping at all by holding back salaries and, there are political issues with player selection. The captain is irresponsible The batsman must dig deep and fight hard to survive this supreme seam attack and they dont even seem to be prepared to do that The inexperienced bowling attack is trying hard but the batsmen give them no chance with these horrible scores. These are the reasons for the teams recent loss To overcome these problems Dilshan must lead from the front as a captain and the top six have to show much more responsibility and apply themselves like PROFESSIONAL cricketers who show at least a purpose of surviving when the ball is swinging.

  • cricket-SA on December 26, 2011, 5:04 GMT

    @Mahesh Dushmantha , Dilshan is a closed chapter now. I dont think he can get any better now. The best thing for him now is to retire from all forms of the game if not all but at least tests, with respect.

  • cricket-SA on December 26, 2011, 5:01 GMT

    Even if Sri Lanka would have toured with their best Test playing squad still there wouldn't have been any competition between South Africa and Sri Lanka. This series totally supports South Africa in every aspect, even the natural factors are in South Africa's favor.

  • Test-is-the-best on December 26, 2011, 4:45 GMT

    I think Kaushal has already wasted his opportunities.he has not performed well in fielding and batting. Sri Lanka need Prasanna back soon. Paranavithana too has not proven his suitability as a solid opener. Still he could not convert his innings to a big hundreds.Dilhara is not getting wickets as usual. Its time to consider replacements for them too.

  • satanswish on December 26, 2011, 4:04 GMT

    Christmas miracle??? What a joke!! Don't expect miracles or rather upsets from minnows in Test Cricket.

  • on December 26, 2011, 3:15 GMT

    i thing very very good dishition for dinesh chandimal incluted this side.so today SL batting linap very hight. i thing SL team today over 400 runs get

  • WaldermaltCricketer on December 26, 2011, 3:02 GMT

    If there is a miracle also Sri Lankan team won't be able to save the game. Because their weaknesses are stronger than miracles. Nothing to argue. SL won't manage to score 200 runs. This is gonna be another huge victory for world class SA against ordinary SL team.

  • KingOwl on December 25, 2011, 23:40 GMT

    When a sub-continent team travels to countries with seaming wickets (Eng/SA), there is always talk of adjustments to their batting. But they NEVER manage to adjust. There just isn't enough time. India sometimes manages to get more favourable pitches by the threat of financial losses from early finishes to tests. But when the stakes are high, that does not work - like in England last Summer. When Eng/Aus travel to the sub-continent, again they talk about adjustments. But they have an advantage in that with the power of the media, they can bully the host nations to prepare more favourable pitches. So, in the end, world cricket is all about a battle of pitch conditions. (Exception is when there is an exceptional team around, which we don't at the moment). A superficial view of matches leads us to think that it is all about the players. But it is mostly about the pitches - the most frequent winners are the best pitch fixers.

  • kothumalli11 on December 25, 2011, 23:18 GMT

    @Luckwin - Dude, you must be in a dream world. Score 500+ against SA bowling the so called SL batters need at least 4 -5 innings (because they could hardly survive 50 overs) and bowl out SA twice with their pedestrian bowling attack(including the world's best and experienced no ball bowler) is something out of extraordinary. Welcome to real world and see how SA demolish SL in this series. Only plenty of luck and rain could save SL this time. Good luck to both teams. May the better team win!!

  • on December 25, 2011, 22:48 GMT

    Sri Lanka have been pushed around like a schoolboy's cricket team against a professional international side, it is fair to say that Sri Lanka have played both with bat and ball way below par.In the T20 Sri Lanka were in a very attacking mode but in the TEST or ODI they were really in a too defensive mode not even hitting the ball to the gaps to take singles on offer.Sri Lankan batsmen need to learn to balance of aggression and defence in a way that they can dominate the Sout African bowlers.

    Even big partnerships between the best batsman of the side was extinct,although the openers gave a solid plaform to lauch on it is pity to say that Sangakkara and Mahela threw thier wickets away to shove Sri Lanka in to a deep dark hole where they could never recover.The top order batsmen including Dilshan should know by now what really went wrong and work on it today itself with the consent of the coaches and mentors.The Sri Lankan top order hasn't really fired and by that the middle-order has co

  • prksinghg on December 25, 2011, 22:34 GMT

    we should try to choose V shape operner in these green pitches. ideal couple would be tharanga n mubarak.

  • prksinghg on December 25, 2011, 22:32 GMT

    mathews is a very slow player. even if he scored a century it will be a waste in our teams perspective since it is already a draw.

  • prksinghg on December 25, 2011, 22:28 GMT

    sri lanka would be much sronger if tharanga is playing in place of dilshan(test only)

  • on December 25, 2011, 22:25 GMT

    15 Tests without a win since Murali and Ajantha Mendis has played in only 3 of those. Along with Malinga, he is Sri Lanka's only potential matchwinner with the ball. Herath is honest but limited. Play Mendis and give him the chance to evolve.

  • VirajSam on December 25, 2011, 21:55 GMT

    really , chrismas miracle ? , ah , is that the same miracle india get to win after losing first test by same margins ? , really these inidans are way overconfidence and dont know where they are in out side india against england,aus,sa . do you remember the 8-0 ? , who need a miracle then ?

  • on December 25, 2011, 21:29 GMT

    Srilanka Have 2 top qlty batsmen , they miss Murli who was their 2 aces out of 4 single handlely , Like India Their problem is bowling,the difff is India has SACHIN/DRAVID/lakman/shewag/ghambir,they have SANGAKARA /Mahela bOWLING WE are similar India will miss HARBHAJAN in AUS as he can FOX top order batsmen ,

  • on December 25, 2011, 20:37 GMT

    due to some reasons SL are loosing the confidence...that could be the main reason.any way good luck SL and hope Dilsahan will take the lead to bounce back.

  • Luckwin on December 25, 2011, 19:26 GMT

    Common Sri Lanka It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up. Luckwin - SL

  • on December 25, 2011, 19:06 GMT

    If sri lanka is gonna do their best, they r surely in contention.. but the thing is no one is in form for sri lanka at the moment.... hope someone will make big runs for sri lanka tomorrow... and surely SA will do well.. well it's gud if we can see a gud game of cricket frm tomorrow and the winner does not matter

  • johnathonjosephs on December 25, 2011, 18:55 GMT

    I hope Mahela, who is currently writing a lot for cricinfo, reads this article and gets ashamed of the way his country is currently playing. Saying that the runner Ups for the 2011 World Cup, Sri Lanka, need a Christmas miracle is very shaming. Hopefully when Jayawardene logs onto his cricinfo account and sees the front page, he will get a source of inspiration and step up his game. Will be extremely hard to get a win here for lanka, but like when the Indians tour South Africa last year and miraculously won the 2nd game from nowhere (with a combination of a fired up Harbhajan and a South African choke), miracles can happen and hopefully Sri Lanka will get exactly that (Christmas Miracle). Never stop believing, no matter what your faith is

  • sameer111111 on December 25, 2011, 18:43 GMT

    Srilanka has absolutely no chance. SA has far greater quality and is miles ahead in all departments. While the SL batsmen are only marginally inferior on paper to the SouthAfricans, in reality Sanga, jayawardene, dilshan are sitting ducks infront of Streyn and co. They would do very well to take the match till the 4th day.

  • johnathonjosephs on December 25, 2011, 18:29 GMT

    omg love the title LOL

  • on December 25, 2011, 18:28 GMT

    Why is Mendis not playing? He can certainly give a tough time to the Proteas.. atleast harder than Herath

  • Luckwin on December 25, 2011, 18:26 GMT

    After reading all these comments, we all should understand what is Cricket does, we have seen small Teams Beating the Giants also never ever underestimate Sri Lanka They Bounce back strongly. If we Got 500+ in 1st innings the game will be in the pocket of SL

  • Luckwin on December 25, 2011, 18:25 GMT

    After reading all these comments, we all should understand what is Cricket does, we have seen small Teams Beating the Giants also never ever underestimate Sri Lanka They Bounce back strongly. If we Got 500+ in 1st innings the game will be in the pocket of SL

  • yorkslanka on December 25, 2011, 17:32 GMT

    We can't expect the selectors to show any sense and keep thissara in the team..urs not like any sense has been used so far...good luck to SL,we are gonna need it...

  • hussainiiiii on December 25, 2011, 16:58 GMT

    Go srilanka go. Best of luck you can beat SA!!

  • Lord.emsworth on December 25, 2011, 16:56 GMT

    Not a Christmas miracle but the ghosts of Christmas past! Rejuvenate Ranatunga's 96 team with a portion to make them young again....Back to earth again dont expect much from poor Chandimal. He's thrust in to save the non-performing faces of the so called most experienced SL top order.

  • satish619chandar on December 25, 2011, 16:47 GMT

    SL need to find way to score runs.. SA usually dont produce tracks where u can settle and make it count.. You are never settled under those conditions.. Somedays, Dilshan's methods might also work better than others.. Just their positive batting need to click and as usual in cricket, they need some luck going their way.. The best passage of play for SL last match was when Matthews and Samaraweera were playing positive and hitting the boundaries at will.. They should do it for longer period of time without getting out.. All the best SL..

  • MrGarreth on December 25, 2011, 16:42 GMT

    @priceless1 Ngam had a horrific spell of injuries worse than even Shane Bond and eventually retired in his early 30s.

  • satish619chandar on December 25, 2011, 16:27 GMT

    Thissera is their best bowler.. Can't drop him..

  • on December 25, 2011, 16:23 GMT

    South Africa will win this series by 3-0 bcoz asians are dull at bouncy tracks

  • on December 25, 2011, 16:16 GMT

    well, we srilankans dont believe in Christmas miracle's, we are well educated people, lol

  • hashabjp on December 25, 2011, 15:35 GMT

    @Herath-UK ...dude you know what makes test cricket interesting??? Home advantage ... playing to your strength along with the pitch. If pitches were standardize then what the point of even traveling anywhere. So home conditions should favor the home team and if the visitors can't acclimitize to it, then better stay at home and have lolly dollies thrown at you from you own team mates. It not just about cricket it about conquering a foreign land with the arsenal you have at home. It's about survival and coming out as a winner. Whether it be flat track of subcontinent or bouncy pitches of South Africa. That why test cricket is interesting - From a true cricket and south africa fan. GO SOUTH AFRICA AND BOUCHER NEEDS TO BE DROPPED.

  • on December 25, 2011, 15:21 GMT

    If Dilshan,Sanga or Mahela click SL should fare well. SL certainly has overcome stiffer opposition. Chandimal,Angelo,Thilan and Tharanga should give 100%. Mendis/Herath/Thisara/Dilhara should be among the wickets if the pitch plays true. SL does not suffer from an inferiority complex just because we ahve lost one test. Lions roar whenever is needed. Tilak (USA)

  • gayansumeera2 on December 25, 2011, 14:41 GMT

    Chandimal must play instead of Kaushal Silva,and Thisara perera should be given chance instead of Chanaka Welagedara if Sri Lanka is to win or draw the match.

  • on December 25, 2011, 14:32 GMT

    SRILANKA TEAM NEED TO THINK ABOUT MACH

  • priceless1 on December 25, 2011, 13:56 GMT

    any one knows what happend to Mfuneko Ngam ? the Allan Donald's duplicate? he looked so promising ..

  • vallavarayar on December 25, 2011, 13:39 GMT

    Nah, no miracles. SA is going wipe the floor with the SL team.

  • on December 25, 2011, 13:29 GMT

    Why does SL leave out mendis?? Leave out Herath and keet Thisara Perera for longer than just 1 game. He could become a excellent all-rounder and a much needed 1 since Mathews can hardly bowl a ball without getting injured. Drop Dilhara or Welagedara to or even Mathews (since he is going to be playing solely as a batsman which upsets the balance of the team. 5 specialist batsman, 1 keeper batsman, 1 all rounder and 4 bowlers.

  • on December 25, 2011, 13:25 GMT

    hope our batsman would put their heads down and bat

  • rahulcricket007 on December 25, 2011, 13:19 GMT

    sl will win . sa will lose 4 th consecutive game at durban .

  • Herath-UK on December 25, 2011, 13:11 GMT

    South Africa can talk big in their own den;they were chickens when were in Sri Lanka for their last series.That's why it becomes imperative for the ICC to step into to make standardised pitches for all the internationals as much as possible. What you see is home boards and players scheming to make spinning,seaming ,bouncing or flat wickets to suit their players and lop sided matches making the public to vote with their feet. Ranil Herath -Kent

  • Akheel on December 25, 2011, 12:44 GMT

    C'Mon MACHAN, can do it! we beleive in you.

  • msmfashan on December 25, 2011, 12:26 GMT

    Hope Sri lanka can win at least one match in this year.....this is last chance for them..... in my view of SL team...... is look good... only one suggestion don't drop T.Perera drop Dilhara... coz perera is and all rounder... & dilhara is match looser.....

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  • msmfashan on December 25, 2011, 12:26 GMT

    Hope Sri lanka can win at least one match in this year.....this is last chance for them..... in my view of SL team...... is look good... only one suggestion don't drop T.Perera drop Dilhara... coz perera is and all rounder... & dilhara is match looser.....

  • Akheel on December 25, 2011, 12:44 GMT

    C'Mon MACHAN, can do it! we beleive in you.

  • Herath-UK on December 25, 2011, 13:11 GMT

    South Africa can talk big in their own den;they were chickens when were in Sri Lanka for their last series.That's why it becomes imperative for the ICC to step into to make standardised pitches for all the internationals as much as possible. What you see is home boards and players scheming to make spinning,seaming ,bouncing or flat wickets to suit their players and lop sided matches making the public to vote with their feet. Ranil Herath -Kent

  • rahulcricket007 on December 25, 2011, 13:19 GMT

    sl will win . sa will lose 4 th consecutive game at durban .

  • on December 25, 2011, 13:25 GMT

    hope our batsman would put their heads down and bat

  • on December 25, 2011, 13:29 GMT

    Why does SL leave out mendis?? Leave out Herath and keet Thisara Perera for longer than just 1 game. He could become a excellent all-rounder and a much needed 1 since Mathews can hardly bowl a ball without getting injured. Drop Dilhara or Welagedara to or even Mathews (since he is going to be playing solely as a batsman which upsets the balance of the team. 5 specialist batsman, 1 keeper batsman, 1 all rounder and 4 bowlers.

  • vallavarayar on December 25, 2011, 13:39 GMT

    Nah, no miracles. SA is going wipe the floor with the SL team.

  • priceless1 on December 25, 2011, 13:56 GMT

    any one knows what happend to Mfuneko Ngam ? the Allan Donald's duplicate? he looked so promising ..

  • on December 25, 2011, 14:32 GMT

    SRILANKA TEAM NEED TO THINK ABOUT MACH

  • gayansumeera2 on December 25, 2011, 14:41 GMT

    Chandimal must play instead of Kaushal Silva,and Thisara perera should be given chance instead of Chanaka Welagedara if Sri Lanka is to win or draw the match.